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DOJ releases proposed rule to reclassify marijuana

The Biden administration announced Thursday that it’s officially moving forward with a proposal to reclassify marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III.

The Justice Department submitted the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to the Office of the Federal Register and, if approved, the rescheduling would limit the punishment for those who are in possession of marijuana when it comes to a federal crime.

The proposal is subject to a 60-day public comment period. After that, the administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration can assign an administrative law judge to consider the evidence and make a final scheduling recommendation

ABC News reported earlier this month the DEA was planning to reschedule marijuana.

President Joe Biden, in a video posted Thursday on X, touted the proposal as “an important move toward reversing longstanding inequities.”

“Look folks, no one should be in jail for merely using or possessing marijuana. Period,” he said. “Far too many lives have been upended because of a failed approach to marijuana, and I’m committed to righting those wrongs.”

Since the Controlled Substances Act was passed in 1971, marijuana has been a Schedule I drug, meaning it was in the same category as more lethal drugs like heroin and meth.

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Schedule III drugs are defined by the DEA as ones “with a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence,” such as “Tylenol with codeine, ketamine, anabolic steroids [and] testosterone.”

PHOTO: Nikko Griffin, left, and Tyra Patterson, call out to arriving voters for several issues, including Issue 2, legalizing recreational marijuana, at a parking lot during early in-person voting in Cincinnati, Nov. 2, 2023.

Nikko Griffin, left, and Tyra Patterson, call out to arriving voters for several issues, including Issue 2, legalizing recreational marijuana, at a parking lot during early in-person voting in Cincinnati, Nov. 2, 2023.

Carolyn Kaster/AP

In October, the White House asked the Department of Health and Human Services to study whether marijuana could be rescheduled.

“In 2023, HHS conducted a scientific and medical evaluation of marijuana based on a comprehensive review of available data at that time and recommended that marijuana be transferred to Schedule III,” the proposed rule says.

In an August letter to the DEA administrator, the assistant secretary for health for HHS, Adm. Rachel L. Levine, recommended that marijuana be controlled in Schedule III.

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