Federal marijuana laws will be significantly altered by the Biden administration.Biden administration plans to drastically change federal rules on marijuana

Federal marijuana laws will be significantly altered by the Biden administration.Biden administration plans to drastically change federal rules on marijuana

 As long as there's no snow on the ground or oodles of rain puddles, you can wear your white jeans, and wear them proudly.

The Biden administration is poised to make a landmark change to the federal government's position on marijuana with a proposed plan that would no longer consider marijuana among the most dangerous and addictive substances. 

In what would be the biggest change in marijuana policy the federal government has taken since pot was first outlawed, the Drug Enforcement Administration will take public comments on a plan to recategorize marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act, according to a source familiar with the process. The news was first reported by The Associated Press.

The Department of Justice will send its recommendation to reclassify marijuana from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule III drug to the White House Office of Management and Budget, according to the source, who was not authorized to speak publicly. The Justice Department is expected to transmit the recommendation today, the source said.

The plan wouldn't legalize marijuana at the federal level outright, but it would reclassify it from a Schedule I drug – believed highly dangerous, addictive and without medical use – to a Schedule III drug that can be lawfully prescribed as medication. Marijuana has been a Schedule I drug since the Controlled Substances Act was signed in 1970.

“It is significant for these federal agencies, and the DEA and FDA in particular, to acknowledge publicly for the first time what many patients and advocates have known for decades: that cannabis is a safe and effective therapeutic agent for tens of millions of Americans," said Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML, which advocates for cannabis to be removed altogether from the list of controlled substances.

This bureaucratic move is only a small step toward what advocates hope will be full legalization of the drug. However, the new proposed classification does not fully address the inconsistencies between federal restrictions and the laws in a growing number of states that have authorized medical and recreational use of pot. 

Twenty-four states and Washington, D.C., have legalized the recreational use of marijuana, and 14 other states authorize it for medical use, according to the Pew Research Center.

“Rescheduling the cannabis plant to Schedule III fails to adequately address this conflict, as existing state legalization laws – both adult use and medical – will continue to be in conflict with federal regulations, thereby perpetuating the existing divide between state and federal marijuana policies," Armentano said in a statement.

The federal proposal to reschedule marijuana would have broad support among voters. A nationwide survey last fall commissioned by the Coalition for Cannabis Rescheduling Reform found nearly 60% of likely voters supported rescheduling, with 65% of younger voters 18 to 25 favoring it, the highest of any demographic group polled. Overall, the number of Americans who think marijuana should be legal reached a record high at 70%, according to a Gallup poll in the fall.

For decades, marijuana has been listed under the Controlled Substances Act as a Schedule I drug, alongside heroin, LSD and ecstasy. The act categorizes drugs based on their potential for abuse, addiction and medical use. Schedule I drugs are outlawed under federal law level and deemed to be without accepted medical use. 

In 2022, President Joe Biden directed the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct a review of how marijuana is classified; and last year HHS recommended it be rescheduled to Schedule III, alongside drugs like Tylenol with codeine and anabolic steroids. The Justice Department did its own analysis and reached the same conclusion, the source said.

The proposal will undergo a public review period; the source did not say when the proposed rule would be open to public comment.

Federal marijuana laws will be significantly altered by the Biden administration.Biden administration plans to drastically change federal rules on marijuana

Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., has previously criticized federal efforts to change Marijuana's classification. Harris was a physician at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, according to his online biography.

"Removing restrictions on an addictive gateway drug like Marijuana is a dangerous mistake. Numerous studies, including a recent and reputable study published by JAMA, points to the negative impact recreational marijuana has on the body and brain," Harris said in a Tuesday social media post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Experts previously told USA TODAY that marijuana’s placement on Schedule I was not based on credible scientific evidence of its perils, but once it was listed, researchers and advocates faced a heavy burden trying to prove it shouldn’t face such stiff restrictions. 

What exactly does rescheduling cannabis mean?

Placing marijuana in Schedule III puts it on par with drugs, such as ketamine, testosterone, anabolic steroids or Tylenol with codeine, that have “moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence,” according to the DEA.

Schedule III drugs can be legally prescribed by licensed health care providers and dispensed by licensed pharmacies. Rescheduling could also help resolve a massive federal tax burden that has been placed on cannabis companies – which were effectively seen as drug traffickers for tax purposes.

But rescheduling marijuana doesn’t make it legal to use recreationally, and it doesn’t change much about current state cannabis programs, said Jay Wexler, who teaches a seminar about marijuana laws at Boston University. It would still a controlled substance even with the new announcement

Wexler and other policy experts and advocates say rescheduling is not a solution, but it could be a sign the federal government is catching up with public opinion and consensus in the medical field that there are therapeutic benefits to marijuana, along with some risks.

"Rescheduling is a step forward, but it is not nearly enough. And there's no reason to keep cannabis in the Controlled Substances Act,” Wexler previously told USA TODAY.

What are the possible risks of marijuana?

Because of its classification, marijuana has been hard to study. But the move to reschedule marijuana is due in large part to its lower public health risk, federal scientists have said.

In a leaked HHS document, officials wrote to the DEA to support lowering its classification to Schedule III. Its risk for addiction was lower than other drugs and it had medical benefits, unlike Schedule I and II drugs, HHS researchers said. 


Advertisement 2

Advertisement 3

Advertisement 4