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The DEA just wrote a letter to Congress about marijuana. It's a big deal.

What might change if the DEA 'reschedules' marijuana.

The DEA just wrote a letter to Congress about marijuana. It's a big deal.

The way state governments treat marijuana has changed a lot over the past decade.

In fact, states with more relaxed marijuana laws now outnumber states with stricter policies. In many states, governments have decriminalized marijuana, legalized the use of the compounds in marijuana for medical purposes, and even legalized weed altogether.

This gives a pretty good look at which states have decriminalized and legalized marijuana, or passed medical marijuana laws. Map from April 2016 via NORML, used with permission.


If you just look at our drug laws on the federal (not the state) level, you won’t see those changes.

According to the federal government, marijuana is still completely illegal. The Drug Enforcement Agency even categorizes marijuana as a Schedule I drug, part of the group of controlled substances that the DEA deems most dangerous.

But the DEA just sent a letter to Congress suggesting that the winds of change are blowing.

Lawmakers and activist groups have been asking the DEA to assign marijuana to a different schedule group for a while, and according to the new letter, they're about to act on that request.

"[The] DEA understands the widespread interest in the prompt resolution of these petitions and hopes to release its determination in the first half of 2016," the letter stamped April 4, 2016, reads.

Something tells me this plant isn't as dangerous as the DEA thinks it is. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

"But ... wait," you may be thinking. "We're in the first half of 2016." If a federal change happens, it's happening soon. Here's what you need to know about what the new rules could mean:

A lot of people disagree with drug scheduling because it seems pretty random.

Back in the 1970s, Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act, which created five classifications for drugs based on their potential for abuse, medical usefulness, and potential safety. According to the DEA, drugs that belong in Schedule I are the ones you definitely don't want to mess with. Schedule I substances supposedly have a high potential for abuse, no "currently accepted medical use," and are generally unsafe.

But here's the big problem: Lots of people disagree with the way the DEA and the FDA scheduled drugs in the '70s. Heroin, which is in Schedule I, was behind more than 17,000 fatal overdoses last year while marijuana hasn't caused a single fatal overdose in, well, recorded history. However, they're both in the same scheduling category.

Also, given that doctors in many states now prescribe cannabis and its chemical compounds to treat conditions like depression, arthritis, and epilepsy, there are plenty of reasons to take marijuana off the mega danger zone list.

Why does rescheduling matter that much?

One word: research.

It's really, really, really, REALLY hard to research marijuana if you're a scientist in the United States because the government heavily restricts research on Schedule I drugs. It's kind of a catch-22: We don't have many clinical trials involving marijuana, so we have limited knowledge about its medical uses and abuse potential, and it stays in Schedule I.

But according to the letter, "We [the DEA] support research on marijuana and its components that complies with applicable laws and regulations to advance our understanding about the health risks and potential therapeutic benefits of medications using marijuana or its components or derivatives."

Bottom line, rescheduling marijuana means that we would know a lot more about that little green plant, what it does, and how to use it safely. Which is important, since people in lots of states have started using the substance more freely in recent years.

Rescheduling marijuana could also mean big changes for our criminal justice system, too.

Photo via A7nubis/Wikimedia Commons.

Even if the DEA reschedules marijuana, that doesn't mean the government is going to fully decriminalize it any time soon. Thousands of people (and disproportionately people of color) are arrested for marijuana possession each year — often outpacing arrests for violent crimes.

Rescheduling could also put us closer to the FDA approving marijuana as a "safe and effective drug" with legal uses, though. Ultimately, criminal justice reform is going to take some time ... and a lot more cooperation from Congress. But this is a good start.

No matter what happens with the schedule, though, this conversation is important for a lot of reasons.

The DEA might end up keeping marijuana in the category of drugs that are even more dangerous than cocaine, meth, and steroids, but it's important that they're at least having real, nuanced discussions about cannabis. This whole thing proves that we’re moving forward, which is a good progress by any standard.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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The battle between millennials and older generations isn't exactly a generational war—it's more a case of mistaken generational identity. A decade ago, whining about millennials being young adults unprepared to make their way in the world at least made sense mathematically. But when people bag on millennials now they end up looking rather foolish.

A marketing researcher with a doctorate in social psychology wrote an op-ed for the Chicago Tribune titled "Post-pandemic, some millennials finally decide to start #adulting." And when the Tribune shared it to Twitter, their since-deleted tweet read, "Writer Jennifer Rosner predicts COVID-10 lockdowns will force easy-breezy millennials to grow up."

Hoo boy.

Interestingly, the writer of the op-ed is a millennial herself, but she repeats generalizations about her entire generation that seem like they mainly apply to her own social circle. Read it yourself to decide, but regardless, the tweet of the op-ed itself set off a firestorm of responses from millennials who are tired of being painted as irresponsible young people who don't know how to "adult" instead of what they actually are.

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2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.