Biden Administration Announces Intent To Reclassify Illegal Narcotic

( – President Joe Biden has taken a proactive approach to modernizing the federal government’s outlook on marijuana use. For example, in early October 2022, he issued a proclamation calling for a review of federal marijuana statutes and pardoned thousands of individuals convicted by federal authorities for simple possession of the drug/plant.

In December 2023, Biden expanded his pardon to include prosecutions for attempted possession offenses and simple possession and use. The president stated at the time that “too many lives [had] been upended’ due to the federal government’s “failed approach to marijuana,” adding that it was time to “right these wrongs.”

The Biden Administration recently upped the ante by announcing its intent to reclassify marijuana.

Biden Administration To Reclassify Marijuana

On April 30, The Associated Press reported that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reportedly decided to downgrade marijuana from a Schedule I to Schedule III drug under Title II of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 (aka the Controlled Substance Act). Five unnamed individuals familiar with the DEA’s thinking confirmed the administration’s move.

However, the classification downgrade will take months and the completion of various bureaucratic hurdles before it can occur. First, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) must review the DEA’s recommendation. Once the OMB approves the move, the Department of Health and Human Services must produce a recommendation greenlighting the change.

Then, the DEA will take public comments through the Federal Comments regarding its plan to reschedule marijuana. Once that period, typically 30 days, expires, a federal administrative judge must review the change. The DEA can publish its final rule if the shift passes that hurdle.

The Justice Department’s director of public affairs, Xochitl Hinojosa, issued a statement confirming that Attorney General Merrick Garland “circulated [the] proposal to reclassify marijuana.” She said once the proposed shift is published in the Federal Register, the DOJ will “initiate a formal rulemaking process” as required under the Controlled Substance Act.

The DEA is a component of the Justice Department, and Garland’s decision to sign off on the move puts the full weight of the DOJ behind the decision. It also confirms that Biden administration officials support the move to reschedule marijuana.

What Does This Mean?

On May 1, the Congressional Research Service released a report detailing some of the consequences of shifting marijuana from Schedule I to III. The 4-page document noted that the change would not legalize the use of marijuana on the federal level. However, it would recognized that the drug has an “accepted medical use.” As such, marijuana “may lawfully be dispensed by prescription” if and when the reclassification occurs.

Manufacturers and distributors would be required to register with the DEA. They would also need to comply with all regulatory requisites that apply to Schedule III drugs to handle marijuana.

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