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Biden Administration Proposes Historic Marijuana Reclassification

May 17, 2024

In a historic move, the Biden administration has proposed rescheduling marijuana from a Schedule 1 to a Schedule 3 substance under the Controlled Substances Act. This significant step acknowledges the medical benefits of marijuana and aims to address long-standing social injustices.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommended the reclassification after a thorough review conducted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Schedule 1 drugs, including marijuana, are currently considered to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use. Reclassifying marijuana to Schedule 3 would place it alongside substances like anabolic steroids and codeine, which are recognized for their medical uses but still carry some risk of dependency and abuse​

President Joe Biden’s administration has emphasized the importance of this move in addressing the disproportionate impact of marijuana criminalization on communities of color. The reclassification is expected to facilitate more extensive medical research on marijuana, reduce legal penalties, and provide economic benefits to the cannabis industry by allowing businesses to take advantage of federal tax deductions currently unavailable to Schedule 1 substances.

In an official statement, President Biden highlighted the injustices caused by the current classification of marijuana. “Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana. It’s time that we right these wrongs,” Biden stated. He further emphasized, “Sending people to prison for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives and incarcerated people for conduct that many states no longer prohibit. Criminal records for marijuana possession have also imposed needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities.”​

“No one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana,” he wrote on X on Thursday, nodding to his previous actions.

“Right now, marijuana has a higher-level classification than fentanyl and methamphetamine – the two drugs driving America’s overdose epidemic,” he added. “That just doesn’t add up.”

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will now review the HHS recommendation. While the DEA has the final authority on the scheduling of drugs, the recommendation marks a pivotal shift in federal policy, reflecting a growing consensus on the need to reform marijuana laws.

This proposal is seen as a crucial step towards aligning federal law with the policies of numerous states that have already legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use. It could also lead to further legislative efforts to ease banking restrictions for cannabis businesses and expand research into the medical applications of marijuana.

The Biden administration’s proposal to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule 3 substance is a significant step that aims to advance medical research, reduce criminal penalties, and address social justice issues, marking a new chapter in the nation’s approach to marijuana.