The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has recommended to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) a change in marijuana policy, and Senate leaders have praised it as a positive step towards easing federal restrictions on the drug.
HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra announced on Twitter that the agency has responded to President Biden’s request to provide a scheduling recommendation for marijuana to the DEA. He added that they have worked to ensure a scientific evaluation is completed and shared promptly.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer stated that HHS recommended moving marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III controlled substance. He commended HHS for taking this step, urging the DEA to follow suit and reduce the harm caused by strict marijuana laws.
Rescheduling marijuana would lead to a reduction or potential elimination of criminal penalties for possession. Currently classified as a Schedule I drug, along with heroin and LSD, marijuana would be reclassified as a Schedule III drug, which indicates a lower potential for abuse.
Schedule III drugs, like ketamine and some anabolic steroids, have a potential for abuse that is lower than substances in Schedules I or II and may result in moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence.
President Biden requested the review in October 2022 as part of his efforts to pardon thousands of Americans convicted of “simple possession” of marijuana under federal law.
While Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden supports the complete descheduling of marijuana, he recognized HHS’s recommendation to reschedule it as a Schedule III drug as a significant development in a nation that has outdated cannabis policies.
The U.S. Cannabis Council expressed its enthusiasm for the news, stating that rescheduling marijuana will bring various benefits, including signaling to the criminal justice system that cannabis is of lower priority and providing economic support to the cannabis industry.
These developments were initially reported by Bloomberg News.