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U.S. Officials Call For Easing Restrictions on Marijuana

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will initiate a review of easing restrictions on marijuana by classifying it as a Schedule III drug.

A senior official at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) wrote the DEA head, Anne Milgram, calling for marijuana to be reclassified as a Schedule III drug under the Controlled Substances Act, Bloomberg News first reported.

The DEA, which has the final authority to reschedule a drug, will now initiate its own review of whether to reclassify marijuana from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule III drug.

Last October, the Biden administration initiated marijuana reform that aims to reduce convictions for using or possessing marijuana that disproportionately affects Black and Brown Americans. The president called for the HHS and the attorney general to review how marijuana is scheduled under federal law.

Schedule I drugs are defined as those with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse, according to the DEA website. This means that marijuana falls under the same category as heroin, LSD, and ecstasy.

Despite the current classification, 38 states allow the medical use of cannabis products, primarily for pain relief and treating nausea and vomiting. Meanwhile, the use of marijuana for recreational purposes in those 21 years and older is allowed in 23 states.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved using cannabis as a treatment for any medical condition. However, the FDA has approved products containing marijuana compounds such as cannabidiol (Epidiolex) and dronabinol (Marinol, Syndros).

The officials seek to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule III drug, defined as having moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence. Examples of Schedule III are some products containing codeine, ketamine, anabolic steroids, and testosterone. Reclassification of marijuana would mean it can be prescribed as a regulated, controlled substance.

Marijuana is the most commonly used federally illegal drug in the U.S., as about 1 in 5 Americans used it at least once in 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

An estimated 3 in 10 people who use marijuana have marijuana use disorder, meaning that they are unable to stop using the drug even though it’s causing health and social problems.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement Wednesday, “HHS has done the right thing and the DEA should now quickly follow through on this important step to greatly reduce the harm caused by draconian marijuana laws.”

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