The Benefits of Keeping Marijuana as a Schedule 1 Drug


U.S. states, such as Alaska and California, have legalized marijuana for medical and recreational use . The citizens of these states are free to use the substance within the specific jurisdiction. On a federal level, however, marijuana is still an illegal substance in the U.S. Marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substance Act and unless a state has legalized marijuana, citizens cannot use the substance. While Marijuana’s Schedule I drug status prevents the nationwide use of the substance for medical use, it helps mitigate the negative effects of legalization and gives the government control over the industry.

Schedule I Drugs

The Controlled Substance Act established the four drug schedules to categorize different substances and limit their use. There is Schedule I, II, III, and IV, with marijuana being in the first category. Drugs in the lower categories are more potent and have higher risks of dependency while the higher numbered schedules have a low potential for abuse (Drug Scheduling, n.d.). Since marijuana is a Schedule I drug, the DEA and the Controlled Substance Act consider it as a substance with a higher risk of abuse and no proven medical properties. For drugs in the Schedule II,  III, and IV categories; the Controlled Substance Act considers them substances with medical use.

The drug schedules dictate whether medical practitioners can prescribe a substance to their patients. Doctors and physicians can prescribe drugs under the Schedule II, III, and IV categories while all substances under Schedule I are illegal. The public nor any private entity can use or distribute Schedule I drugs. Even researchers cannot study the substance unless they receive approval from the federal government (Garvey et al., 2015). This limitation makes marijuana research almost impossible which contributes to the lack of evidence and studies regarding its medical properties. Marijuana’s status as a Schedule I Drug makes its nationwide legalization almost impossible since federal legalization requires scientific proof.

Benefits of Keeping Marijuana as a Schedule I Drug

The benefits of keeping marijuana as a Schedule I Drug are mostly in the management of related crimes and the prevention of substance abuse. As mentioned earlier, marijuana’s status prevents unauthorized individuals or organizations from producing and distributing the substance. This prevents criminals and individuals with high risks of addiction from obtaining marijuana. Marijuana as a Schedule I Drug allows the government to manage black market activity, reduce marijuana-related crimes, prevent underage use, and control the overall use of the substance.

Manage Black Market Activity

The legalization of marijuana in some states has led to an increased demand for the substance. According to the University of Colorado, Johns Hopkins University, and Harvard Medical School, the marijuana black market has become more active in Colorado since the legalization in the state. This increased activity can even lead to the distribution of more dangerous drugs, such as heroin (cited in Evans, 2019). The increased demand for marijuana opens new networks for drug distributors, making them more aggressive in their activities. The legalization gives distributors the confidence to operate in public places without the need to hide from the authorities.

Keeping marijuana as a Schedule I drug can help prevent more aggressive black market activities in both states that have legalized marijuana and those that have not. In states that have legalized marijuana, the schedule prevents black market activities that involve other jurisdictions. This helps prevent complex situations where black market networks span different states and operate at a large scale. In states that did not legalize marijuana, black market activities will remain constant, considering no other factors are involved. Marijuana will remain an illegal substance, preventing individuals from distributing them and lowering the risks of addiction. It is also important to note that Mexican drug cartels have increased presence in legalized states (Evans, 2019). Keeping marijuana at its current status will help prevent notorious organizations from operating and benefiting from the law.

Reduce Marijuana-Related Crimes

Aside from increased black market activities, the legalization of marijuana led to higher crime rates. Various studies and statistics indicate that marijuana-related traffic fatalities, violence, burglaries, and property damages have increased in states that have legalized the substance (Connealy et al., 2019; Evans, 2019). These crimes occur near or around marijuana dispensaries, indicating a direct relationship between the events–distribution of marijuana, similar to the alcohol industry, leads to increased crime around dispensaries (Connealy et al., 2019). Users are likely to consume the substance and be under the influence of marijuana around the dispensaries. This can have detrimental effects on the community since increased crime rates will endanger the lives of the population.

States that did not legalize marijuana do not have the problem of increased crime rates near dispensaries. Under the Controlled Substance Act and its Schedule I status, patients or anyone who uses marijuana for either recreational or medical purposes cannot enter federal land (Gora & Moszczynski, 2021). Since marijuana is still illegal under federal law, users cannot legally travel to other states while under the influence. This prevents marijuana-related crimes, such as traffic fatalities and violence, from affecting other states. Marijuana’s status as a Schedule I Drug safeguards other jurisdictions from the negative consequences of legalization.

Prevent Underage Use of Marijuana

The increased crime rates also included the distribution of marijuana to minors. Various studies suggest that there has been an increased number of marijuana-related poisonings for children, there is a 5% increase in juvenile marijuana-related arrests, and distributors are beginning to operate near or in school zones (cited in Evans, 2019). Marijuana state laws provide distributors and users immunity to marijuana-related criminal laws which gives them the confidence to conduct aggressive tactics. Furthermore, since the increased demand for marijuana led to increased availability, underage individuals can obtain the substance easier. Children and underage teens may have begun perceiving marijuana as similar to cigarettes and alcohol, leading to excessive use and poisoning.

Keeping marijuana as a Schedule I Drug will ensure that children in other states will not gain access to the substance. Since studies suggest that the legalization has increased marijuana sales to juveniles, federal legalization or a change in status can lead to serious issues regarding drug abuse in children. Currently, this problem only exists in specific states that legalized marijuana which a simple change in policies can mitigate. This showcases that the federal government’s decision to maintain marijuana’s Schedule I status can prevent underage individuals from developing substance dependency.

Control Overall Marijuana Use

The Schedule I Drug status’ main benefit is the control that the federal government has over marijuana use. The status ensures that any marijuana-related laws are in compliance with obligations under international drug treaties and conventions (Cork & Kingston, 2019). Marijuana laws in different U.S. states have varying particulars, such as in taxing and business operations. States can create marijuana laws that are specific to their needs which run the risk of establishing rules that may defy international conventions. The Schedule I status ensures that any laws that a state creates will not break any agreement with the international community. This prevents the U.S. from facing international legal issues which can have economic and sociological effects on the country.

Additionally, the Schedule I Drug status allows the federal government to establish limitations in marijuana research, production, distribution, and use. Marijuana’s illegal status under federal law prevents all U.S. states from legalizing the substance and experiencing negative effects, such as increased crime rates. The federal government can also utilize data from states that have legalized marijuana to learn the economic and sociological effects of legalization. For instance, knowledge regarding increased crime rates can help the government establish better laws and prevent the majority of the U.S. from suffering the negative effects of legalization.


Marijuana’s Schedule I status limits the potential of the substance from becoming a medically-approved drug. This limitation allows the federal government to control marijuana production, distribution, and use. The status provides benefits in managing marijuana-related black market activities, crime, underage distribution and use, and the establishment of state-specific marijuana laws. The Schedule I status ensures that U.S. states will comply with international drug laws, safeguarding citizens and the country’s welfare. Changing marijuana’s Schedule I status can mean federal legalization, taking away the benefits of the status quo and allowing the whole country to experience the effects of marijuana use and distribution.

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Connealy, N., Pizza, E., & Hatten, D. (2019). The Criminogenic Effect of Marijuana Dispensaries in Denver Colorado: A Microsynthetic Control Quasi-Experiment and Cost Benefit Analysis. Justice Evaluation Journal, vol. 3(1). Available at . Accessed June 23, 2022.

Cork, K. & Kingston, H. (2019). What If Marijuana Were Not A Schedule I Drug? Legal & Policy Implications [PowerPoint Slides]. Public Health Law Center at Mitchell Hamline School of Law. Available at Accessed June 23, 2022. (n.d.). Drug Scheduling. United States Drug Enforcement Administration. Available at Accessed June 26, 2022. (2020). Marijuana/Cannabis. Department of Justice/Drug Enforcement Administration, Drug Fact Sheet. Available at . Accessed June 23, 2022.

Evans, D. (2019). Marijuana Legalization Will Cause Many Problems for Missouri Law Enforcement and Schools. Missouri Medicine, vol. 116(3). Available at  Accessed June 23, 2022.

Garvey, T., Doyle, C., & Carpenter, D. (2015). Marijuana: Medical and Retail–Selected Legal Issues. Congressional Research Service. Available at Accessed June 23, 2022.

Gora, L., & Moszczynski, N. (2021). Declassifying Cannabis as a Schedule I Drug: How Can It Be Done and What Will the Effects Be? New Jersey Law Journal. Available at Accessed June 23, 2022.

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