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Biden Administration to Reschedule Marijuana As a Schedule III Drug


President Biden announced that the Justice Department would be formally moving to reclassify marijuana as a less dangerous drug. The reclassification process is still ongoing, but if approved marijuana would move from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule III drug.  

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies controlled substances into five categories named “schedules.” The schedules are allegedly based on how likely the substances are to be abused compared to their value as medication. Schedule I drugs are those with the greatest potential for abuse and that the DEA believes has no medical value. Currently, marijuana is a Schedule I drug, alongside heroin, LSD, and ecstasy. Marijuana is to be classified in Schedule III. Drugs in the Schedule III category are seen as having a low or moderate risk of abuse compared to their potential health benefits. Schedule III drugs include anabolic steroids, ketamine and testosterone.  

The federal government has classified cannabis as a Schedule I drug since Congress first enacted the Controlled Substances Act in 1970. The DEA has the authority to classify drugs as it sees fit, though marijuana’s classification as a Schedule I drug has been controversial for awhile.  

The reclassification is a long time coming, as 38 states have already legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes. 24 states have legalized marijuana for recreational use.  

Biden Administration Announcement Desk and SpeakersWhat Does Marijuana Reclassification Mean for the Average American?  

Rescheduling would not decriminalize marijuana or make it legal for recreational use for federal purposes. Instead, the schedule change would recognize the medical use of marijuana and acknowledge that it has less potential for abuse than drugs in Schedule I or II. Scientists would also be able to research marijuana as a Schedule III drug without as much red tape involved. 

The rescheduling would also give cannabis businesses a much needed boost. Cannabis businesses would be able to write off various expenses in their taxes and enable them to access traditional banking services.  

Schedule III drugs are still controlled substances and subject to rules and regulations, and people who traffic in them without permission could still face federal criminal prosecution. However, federal prosecution of marijuana related crimes has gone down in recent years. President Biden has also pardoned thousands of people who have been convicted for simple possession of marijuana. While rescheduling alone is unlikely to decriminalization marijuana, rescheduling is likely the beginning of the end for federal enforcement of marijuana related crimes.  

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