Justice Department Moves to Reclassify Marijuana

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May 17, 2024 -- The U.S. Justice Department has formally proposed that marijuana be reclassified as a Schedule III drug instead of a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act.

Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday submitted a notice of proposed rulemaking to the Federal Register to formally start the process, the Justice Department said in a news release. The notice recognizes the medical uses of marijuana and says it has less potential for abuse than other Schedule I drugs such a heroin and LSD. 

Next, the Drug Enforcement Administration will take public comment on the proposal. It’s not known how long the process could take. But the change would not legalize marijuana outright for recreational use.

The reclassification of marijuana has been discussed for years. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services began reviewing the possible change in October 2022 at the urging of President Biden, who, in a video statement posted on X, called the move "monumental." 

As defined by the federal government, Schedule I drugs have a strong potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical use. Schedule III drugs have a “a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence.” 

Schedule III drugs include steroids, testosterone, and certain combinations of limited codeine with Tylenol. Schedule IV and V drugs have even lower risks of abuse or dependence.

Marijuana has been classified as a Schedule I drug since 1970, the Justice Department said.

You can read more about the reclassification here.