The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has delivered a long-awaited recommendation to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) regarding the classification of marijuana, drawing praise from Senate leaders who see it as a positive step towards easing federal restrictions on the drug. HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra took to social media to announce that the agency has responded to President Joe Biden's request to provide a scheduling recommendation for marijuana to the DEA.
Secretary Becerra emphasized the importance of a scientific evaluation being completed and shared expeditiously. The recommendation put forth by HHS suggests moving marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule III controlled substance. This change would have significant implications as it would reduce or potentially eliminate criminal penalties for possession, a move that has long been advocated by proponents of marijuana reform.
Currently, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug, placing it in the same category as heroin and LSD. Schedule I drugs are defined by the DEA as having no currently accepted medical use, a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision, and a high potential for abuse. In contrast, Schedule III drugs, which include substances like ketamine and some anabolic steroids, have a lower potential for abuse and may lead to moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, applauded the recommendation made by HHS, stating that they have done the right thing. He called on the DEA to follow through on this important step, emphasizing that rescheduling marijuana would greatly reduce the harm caused by draconian marijuana laws.
The push for rescheduling has gained momentum in recent years, with public opinion shifting towards a more progressive stance on marijuana. President Biden himself requested this review in October 2022 as he granted pardons to thousands of Americans convicted of "simple possession" of marijuana under federal law. While some lawmakers, like Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden of Oregon, called for marijuana to be completely descheduled, the recommendation by HHS to move it to Schedule III is seen as a significant development.
News of the HHS recommendation was initially reported by Bloomberg News, sparking reactions from various stakeholders. The nonprofit U.S. Cannabis Council warmly welcomed the news, stating that rescheduling would bring a broad range of benefits, including signaling to the criminal justice system that cannabis is a lower priority and providing a crucial economic lifeline to the cannabis industry.
The potential rescheduling of marijuana reflects a shift in the nation's cannabis policies, which have long been criticized for being out of touch with reality. Advocates hope that this recommendation will lead to meaningful reform and a more sensible approach to marijuana regulation at the federal level. As the DEA reviews the HHS recommendation, the outcome could have far-reaching implications for marijuana policy in the United States.
themes: Joe Biden New York (state) Oregon