Weed Wins: Marijuana Will Be a Schedule III Drug

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is about to reschedule marijuana as a less dangerous drug, along with ketamine and anabolic steroids, sources told the Associated Press.

The drug will be reclassified for the first time since the Controlled Substances Act was enacted in 1970.

Marijuana, or cannabis, is currently a Schedule I drug, along with heroin, LSD, and ecstasy, meaning it has no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.

The DEA’s proposal, which will be reviewed by the White House Office of Management and Budget, would classify marijuana as a Schedule III drug, acknowledging its medical use. However, rescheduling would not legalize the use of cannabis for recreational purposes.

What is a Schedule III drug?

Schedule III drugs are defined as having a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence. They include products containing less than 90 milligrams of codeine per dosage unit, ketamine, anabolic steroids, and testosterone.

In 2022, President Joe Biden asked the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to initiate a review of how marijuana is scheduled under federal law.

The department recommended reclassifying marijuana, citing evidence that cannabis has lower public health risks, such as emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and overdose, compared to other drugs.

Currently, 38 states, three territories, and the District of Columbia allow the medical use of cannabis products, with an increasing number of states having legalized it for recreational use.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates products containing cannabis or its compounds marketed as food or drugs. In 2018, the agency approved Epidiolex (cannabidiol), the first marijuana-derived drug for the treatment of epilepsy seizures.

Since then, three more cannabis-related drug products have been approved: Marinol (dronabinol) and Cesamet (nabilone) to treat nausea and vomiting caused by cancer treatment, and Syndros (dronabinol) to treat anorexia in AIDS patients.

The FDA says it supports scientific research into the medical uses of cannabis and its constituents in scientifically valid investigations. The agency encourages the development of cannabis-related drug products.

The benefits of medical marijuana

Marijuana contains at least 560 identified natural constituents, including 125 compounds classified as cannabinoids. The two most abundant cannabinoids are CBD and THC, the latter of which is responsible for psychoactive effects. Despite increasing research, the full scope of their effects is not fully understood.

The findings of benefits and harms of medical cannabis are mixed, with studies reporting an inability to draw conclusions due to inconsistent findings and a lack of rigorous evidence, according to a 2019 review.

Some studies showed the benefits of medical cannabis in relieving pain caused by multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and fibromyalgia when compared to placebo. Research also suggested improvements in muscles and movement, quality of life, and sleep. However, the findings are inconsistent.

In a historic move, the DEA will reclassify cannabis as a Schedule III drug. However, the implementation of rescheduling is still months away.

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