Summary: A recent poll indicates that about one-third of marijuana consumers would revert to the illicit market if cannabis rescheduling led to its availability only as an FDA-approved prescription drug. This survey, conducted by Nugg MD, highlights concerns among consumers about potential government involvement in marijuana regulation following a hypothetical reclassification.
The Impact of Cannabis Rescheduling on Consumer Choices and the Black Market
The poll’s findings come amid ongoing administrative reviews into cannabis scheduling by federal agencies. While the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has recommended shifting cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), this wouldn’t automatically legalize it as a prescription drug. The FDA’s drug approval process, typically not approving botanicals as prescription medications, is separate from this scheduling.
Industry observers generally expect the federal government to continue allowing state cannabis markets to operate without interference post-rescheduling. However, some advocates and consumers worry that this change could disrupt state-licensed businesses by enabling a pharmaceutical takeover of the marijuana industry. The survey underscores these concerns, revealing that if the only legal option to purchase cannabis was through a pharmacy with a prescription, 32% of respondents would prefer buying from the illicit market, risking criminalization. In contrast, 55% would visit the pharmacy, 6% would cease using cannabis, and 7% would choose other alternatives.
Deb Tharp, head of legal and policy research at NuggMD.com, emphasizes that consumer preferences lean towards traditional botanical products over FDA-approved cannabis. The survey also indicates that a majority of respondents prefer state-run cannabis markets and have moderate to high trust in state controls. Tharp warns that pushing consumers into the unregulated market could have severe safety implications, as black market cannabis is not considered safe.
The survey also explored general consumer preferences, with 77% favoring traditional botanical products and 18% opting for FDA-approved cannabis. Regarding the potential impact of moving marijuana to Schedule III, opinions were divided: 47% felt it wouldn’t affect their access, 28% believed it would make access harder, and 25% thought it would become easier.
Why It Matters: This poll’s results are significant as they reflect the potential consequences of federal rescheduling of cannabis on consumer behavior and market dynamics. The preference for state-regulated markets and traditional botanical products over pharmaceutical alternatives highlights the importance of considering consumer needs and market structures in cannabis policy reform.
Potential Implications: If cannabis is rescheduled and access becomes restricted to pharmacies with prescriptions, a significant portion of consumers might turn to the illicit market. This shift could undermine the safety and regulatory achievements of legal cannabis markets, potentially reigniting issues related to unregulated cannabis products. Policymakers need to balance federal regulations with the preservation of state markets and consumer preferences to avoid unintended consequences.
Source: Marijuana Moment
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