DENVER (KDVR) — Federal officials could soon be easing restrictions on marijuana under new recommendations issued this week by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
HHS has recommended reclassifying marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule III substance, saying it has a moderate to low potential for dependence and a lower abuse potential.
“I’m glad to see that people are finally realizing that cannabis is not as dangerous as cocaine and fentanyl,” said Sam Taylor, CEO of The Grow Off. “It’s a step in the right direction, but I don’t think it’s far enough.”
Still, Taylor and others in Colorado’s marijuana industry have concerns about the change and how it could impact local producers and dispensaries.
“Big money has always been around cannabis, and I think this opens the door for even bigger money to come in, and I think most of that money will go to multi-state operators, the big guys. And that’s going to leave behind the mom and pops that really built this industry in Colorado, specifically,” Taylor said.
Could cannabis reclassification change banks’ minds?
Others in Denver oppose the change entirely, including Luke Niforatos with Smart Approaches to Marijuana, or SAM.
“This is not the time to be saying this drug is not a big deal,” he said. “This is the time to be saying we need to be cautious with this drug, particularly with the increasing potency. There is a lot of reason to be very concerned that our government would send anything other than a message of warning and caution when it comes to this drug.”
It remains unclear what impacts a potential change would have on day-to-day operations at local dispensaries, where credit cards are still off-limits.
Taylor said a change to a lower schedule, but not legalization outright, likely would still scare banks away from the marijuana industry.
“Consumers are frustrated they can’t use their credit card in a dispensary. That’s still the case in a Schedule III scenario, as far as I know,” she said. “I believe that de-scheduling is the only way to allow those transactions to happen, because the big banks want that assurance from the federal government that you’re good to go. And we’re not there yet.”