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Justice Department Officially Moves to Reclassify Marijuana as a Less Dangerous Drug in Historic Change

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department on Thursday formally proposed reclassifying marijuana as a less dangerous drug in a historic shift in several generations of U.S. drug policy.

A proposed rule sent to the Federal Register recognizes the medical uses of cannabis and recognizes that it poses less risk of abuse than some of the nation’s most dangerous drugs. The plan approved by Attorney General Merrick Garland does not outright legalize marijuana for recreational use.

The Drug Enforcement Administration will consider public comments on the proposal to move marijuana away from its current classification as a Schedule I drug, alongside heroin and LSD. It moves the pot to Schedule III, alongside ketamine and some anabolic steroids.

This decision follows a recommendation from the federal Department of Health and Social Services, which launched a review of the drug status at the request of President Joe Biden in 2022.

Biden also moved to forgive thousands of people convicted federally of simple possession of marijuana and called on governors and local leaders to take similar steps to expunge the convictions.

“This is monumental,” Biden said in a video statement, calling it an important step toward reversing long-standing inequities. “Far too many lives have been disrupted by an ineffective approach to marijuana, and I am committed to righting those wrongs.” You have my word.”

The election year outlook could help Biden, a Democrat, build his support, particularly among voters. younger voters.

The notice of proposed rulemaking submitted to the Federal Register kicks off a 60-day comment period followed by possible review by an administrative law judge, a potentially lengthy process.

Biden and a growing number of lawmakers from both major political parties have pushed for the DEA’s decision, as marijuana becomes increasingly decriminalized and accepted, particularly by young people.

The Cannabis Council of America, a trade group, applauded the proposed change, saying it would “signal a tectonic shift from the failed policies of the past 50 years.”

Available data reviewed by HHS show that while marijuana “is associated with a high prevalence of abuse,” that potential is more consistent with other Schedule III substances, according to the proposed rule.

HHS’s recommendations are binding until the proposed rule is submitted, and Garland accepted it in an effort to start the process.

Still, the DEA has not yet made its own decision about where marijuana should be listed, and it hopes to learn more during the rulemaking process, the document says.

Schedule III drugs are still controlled substances and subject to rules and regulations, and people who traffic them without authorization could still face federal criminal prosecution.

Some critics argue that the DEA should not change course on marijuana, saying rescheduling is not necessary and could lead to harmful side effects. Others argue that marijuana should be treated the same as alcohol.

Federal drug policy has lagged behind that of many states in recent years, with 38 states already legalizing medical marijuana and 24 legalizing recreational use. This has helped fuel the rapid growth of the marijuana industry, which is estimated to be worth nearly $30 billion.

Easing federal regulations could reduce the tax burden that can reach 70% or more for marijuana businesses, according to industry groups. It could also make marijuana research easier, since it is very difficult to conduct authorized clinical studies on Schedule I substances.


Associated Press writers Zeke Miller in Washington and Joshua Goodman in Miami contributed to this report.


Follow the AP’s marijuana coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/marijuana.

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News Source : apnews.com

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