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The Medical Cannabis Explosion Just Got Real

Apr. 30, 2024 by SOMAÍ

The global cannabis trifecta has hit! The United States has finally rescheduled cannabis, moving it to Schedule III; the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have released a report deeming cannabis a safe medicine; and Germany has removed the narcotics derivation from cannabis, making it easy to prescribe. 

We are entering an era of global regulatory change and a medical cannabis explosion that can only be likened to the early days of U.S. and Canadian legalization back in 2014. This time, the most influential economies — the U.S. and Germany — and a significant health regulatory agency —  the FDA — have put an official stamp on cannabis as a medicine.

The Impact Of The HHS Report On Cannabis: Sparking Change

This movement started with a 252-page HHS report filed in August of 2023 and made public in January 2024 thanks to the Freedom of Information Act. The report is packed with medical evidence as to the safety of cannabis and declares that cannabis is beneficial for at least 15 medical indications. 

The HHS and FDA made these determinations after reviewing two decades of cannabis use in the United States, citing reports from over 6,000,000 patients and 30,000 prescribing physicians. The report unequivocally states that cannabis is safe. It goes on to clarify that cannabis is safer than current pharmaceutical alternatives and provides the lowest risk of overdose deaths and hospitalization. Additionally, the report cites benefits for multiple medical indications, including neuropathic pain, Crohn’s disease, and anorexia. 

This is, without a doubt, the most impactful report on the pathway toward medical legalization thus far, and regulators worldwide are analyzing it for their own markets.

Medical Cannabis Reform In Germany

In March, Germany passed a comprehensive reform on cannabis, dubbed “Pillar 1”. 

Germany is the most powerful and influential European country in the evolving global cannabis market. For seven years, Germany has been forging a path forward to provide greater access to cannabis for its population. 

What Does Germany’s Cannabis Reform Entail?

Germany’s legislation basically decriminalizes cannabis, provides a regulatory framework for social clubs, and, most importantly, removes cannabis from the narcotics list. 

Cannabis is No Longer A Narcotic In Germany

Removal of the narcotic derivation allows doctors and clinics to freely prescribe cannabis with minimal medical regulations

Germany was well within the European Union (EU) rules and the 1971 Narcotics Act regulated by the World Health Organization (WHO) in removing the narcotics derivation and decriminalizing cannabis. Nonetheless, this was a very bold move. Germany’s progress will certainly draw other EU countries into the future and force the WHO to adopt a more progressive stance on cannabis going forward, even after the organization identified cannabis as a medicine in December 2020

German Medical Cannabis Ushers In Change Across Europe

Since Germany started this process in 2024, countries like Czechia have already adopted a liberal program similar to Germany’s. Countries like Spain and France have begun opening their medical cannabis markets to more conservative extracted product forms. Germany has pushed the EU market regulators to confront legalizing medical access to patients.

Rescheduling Cannabis In The U.S.

And now, to cap the advancements of cannabis in the first quarter of 2024, the U.S. is finally moving cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III

Politics were overridden by the administrative actions of the HHS and DEA, seemingly aided by a push from the White House. The rescheduling of cannabis means that, on an institutional level, the U.S. government endorses cannabis as a medicine. 

How U.S. Rescheduling Will Shape The Cannabis Industry

Rescheduling ends decades of debates on cannabis and knocks the pegs out of any argument that bills like the Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation (SAFER) Banking Act or Gun Rights and Marijuana (GRAM) Act should not pass. 

Although the new Schedule III listing won’t immediately help most cannabis companies, we expect further regulations to become more lenient. However, the most important result for the global regulatory markets is that the United States has also deemed cannabis a medicine. 

A Bright Future For Regulated And Medical Cannabis In 2024

The HHS report, German declassification, and U.S. rescheduling resulted in global regulatory market change and an explosion in medical cannabis regulations across the globe. 2024 will likely bring a constant flow of new countries announcing regulations, and I expect the year to be marked as the most significant inflection point in global cannabis history. The global cannabis explosion is here now!