White House recommends reclassifying marijuana

August 31, 2023

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Wednesday formally recommended that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) ease federal restrictions on marijuana.

HHS has recommended that marijuana no longer be classified as a “schedule I” drug, in the same category as drugs like heroin and LSD, but that it be categorized instead as a “schedule III” drug under the Controlled Substances Act.

President Biden asked HHS to review the drug classification back in October, saying in a statement, “Criminal records for marijuana possession have also imposed needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities. And while white and Black and brown people use marijuana at similar rates, Black and brown people have been arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at disproportionate rates.”

On Wednesday afternoon HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra announced on social media, “I can now share that, following the data and science, @HHSGov has responded to @POTUS’ directive to me for the Department to provide a scheduling recommendation for marijuana to the DEA. We’ve worked to ensure that a scientific evaluation be completed and shared expeditiously.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) applauded HHS’ recommendation as “the right thing.”

“DEA should now follow through on this important step to greatly reduce the harm caused by draconian marijuana laws,” Schumer said.

Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) called the move “not inconsequential,” saying that to reschedule marijuana would “be a historic step for a nation whose cannabis policies have been out of touch with reality.”

Some Congressional Republicans, including Florida Reps. Matt Gaetz, Greg Steube and Brian Mast, had also called for marijuana to be rescheduled. However, that state’s Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has said on the 2024 Presidential campaign trail that he opposes legalizing marijuana because “they can throw fentanyl in any of this stuff now.”

Some 23 states, Washington DC, and the U.S. territories of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands have already legalized the recreational use of marijuana for adults over age 21. Projected revenue in these places for 2023 range from the hundreds of millions to more than a billion dollars.

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