DEA plans to back reclassifying marijuana as less serious drug, sources say

Written by on May 1, 2024

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(WASHINGTON) — In a historic shift, the Drug Enforcement Administration supports recommending the reclassification of marijuana as a less dangerous drug, moving it from a Schedule 1 classification, alongside drugs like heroin and ecstasy, to a Schedule 3 drug, like ketamine, steroids and testosterone, sources told ABC News.

A source confirmed that the Department of Justice on Tuesday will send its recommendation to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, which will review it, further solidifying a process that will then take several more months.

The White House declined to comment, referring all questions to the DOJ, which then announced its decision later on Tuesday.

In a statement, department spokesperson Xochitl Hinojosa said: “Today, the attorney general circulated a proposal to reclassify marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III. Once published by the Federal Register, it will initiate a formal rulemaking process as prescribed by Congress in the Controlled Substances Act.”

As Hinojosa indicated, the Office of Management and Budget will soon initiate a public comment period before the issue gets sent back to DOJ to run their own process, which will include hearings and a review by an administrative judge.

The change is far from finalized and, even if approved, the move would not legalize marijuana outright.

However, rescheduling marijuana would have sweeping ramifications for how the federal government treats the drug — in terms of medical research, taxation and more — as marijuana has become more widely used across American society.

A majority of states have legalized marijuana use to varying degrees, including for medicinal purposes, according to the Pew Research Center.

“We classify marijuana at the same level as heroin – and more serious than fentanyl. It makes no sense,” President Joe Biden tweeted in October 2022, when he asked the Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. attorney general to begin this review process.

Since then, Biden has also pardoned thousands of people convicted for federal offenses of simple marijuana possession. If the drug is reclassified to Schedule 3, it could impact those charges at the state level.

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