An introduced proposal aims to shift the categorization of marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule III controlled substance. While the proposal does not entail legalization or decriminalization of the substance, its purpose is to relax regulations. 

Marijuana, currently categorized as a Schedule I drug, shares its classification with substances such as heroin and LSD. These compounds were once believed to lack any recognized medical benefits and were deemed to pose a significant risk of abuse. The shift to Schedule III, a category that includes drugs such as ketamine and anabolic steroids, would imply that marijuana is considered to have a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence.

This proposed change will be initiated with a month-long review period that incorporates public commentary and administrative assessment. As a result, the change won’t be immediate. Instead, the Justice Department plans to finalize its decision after 60 days, which will be followed by the official publication of the rule.

This action comes after President Biden’s 2022 directive to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Justice Department, tasking them with reevaluating the DEA’s categorization of marijuana. A recent HHS memo highlights credible scientific support for the medical applications of marijuana despite the lack of endorsement from professional medical groups. Nevertheless, numerous states allow its use for medical or recreational reasons.

AD 4nXcE5xgV4YNvKYzUOkrqh5n2IVDrtA7cye7VbTJKKnLRZM9mfCoHdQTfXf8ZSVJxA Oln20e3cPh753BtOVPb04ffgf2uSJrAIvwY6Lt79LbzcLmrnR13jJW7R7it1bx f5Ga97MZG0wmCyg2 Bfcek4yLzt?key=QupnXsY8AkJyfw asz3KQw

President Biden referred to the proposal as “monumental” in a video released on Tuesday. He highlighted the reform of marijuana policies as a critical focus of his administration, citing his previous action to pardon thousands of Americans convicted of simple cannabis possession. He also encouraged state governors to enact similar pardons, aiming to rectify what he considers long-standing injustices that impact minority communities, in particular.

The notice of proposed rulemaking sent to the Federal Register earlier this week confirmed that the attorney general agrees with the HHS recommendation. It has been formally recognized that marijuana’s potential for abuse is less than that of substances in Schedules I and II.

Despite broad support, the proposal has faced criticism. Some former DEA officials, in discussions with CBS News, have expressed concerns that reducing restrictions on marijuana could increase drug abuse and act as a gateway to more harmful substances. However, the proposal has won support from various advocacy groups who argue that reclassifying marijuana could open up more research opportunities and deepen understanding of its medical benefits. Moreover, the shift aligns with actions taken by several states toward the acceptance of marijuana’s medical and recreational use.

The public comment period is anticipated to attract significant feedback from diverse stakeholders, including medical professionals, advocacy groups, policymakers, and the public. Their insights will be crucial in shaping the final decision on this contentious issue.

If approved, the reclassification of marijuana to Schedule III would mark a significant shift in federal drug policy, aligning it with evolving scientific perspectives and societal attitudes toward cannabis. This reclassification could potentially lead to broader reforms in the regulation and perception of marijuana throughout the United States.