U.S. DEA poised to ease Marijuana restrictions

FILE - In this Friday, March 22, 2019, file photo, a marijuana plant is visible at Compassionate Care Foundation's medical marijuana dispensary in Egg Harbor Township, N.J. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration will move to reclassify marijuana as a less dangerous drug, a historic shift to generations of American drug policy that could have wide ripple-effects across the country. The DEA’s proposal still must be reviewed by the White House Office of Management and Budget.
FILE - In this Friday, March 22, 2019, file photo, a marijuana plant is visible at Compassionate Care Foundation's medical marijuana dispensary in Egg Harbor Township, N.J. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration will move to reclassify marijuana as a less dangerous drug, a historic shift to generations of American drug policy that could have wide ripple-effects across the country. The DEA’s proposal still must be reviewed by the White House Office of Management and Budget. AP

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration will move to reclassify marijuana as a less dangerous drug, The Associated Press has learned, a historic shift to generations of American drug policy that could have wide ripple effects across the country.

The proposal, which still must be reviewed by the White House Office of Management and Budget, would recognize the medical uses of cannabis and acknowledge it has less potential for abuse than some of the nation’s most dangerous drugs. However, it would not legalize marijuana outright for recreational use.

The agency’s move, confirmed to the AP on Tuesday by five people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive regulatory review, clears the last significant regulatory hurdle before the agency’s biggest policy change in more than 50 years can take effect.

Public comment

Once OMB signs off, the DEA will take public comment on the plan to move marijuana from its current classification as a Schedule I drug, alongside heroin and LSD. It moves pot to Schedule III, alongside ketamine and some anabolic steroids, following a recommendation from the federal Health and Human Services Department. After the public comment period and a review by an administrative judge, the agency would eventually publish the final rule.

“Today, the Attorney General circulated a proposal to reclassify marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III,” Justice Department director of public affairs Xochitl Hinojosa said in a statement. The DEA is a component of the Department of Justice. “Once published by the Federal Register, it will initiate a formal rulemaking process as prescribed by Congress in the Controlled Substances Act.”

Attorney General Merrick Garland’s signature throws the full weight of the Justice Department behind the move and appears to signal its importance to the Biden administration.

It comes after President Joe Biden called for a review of federal marijuana law in October 2022 and moved to pardon thousands of Americans convicted federally of simple possession of the drug. He has also called on governors and local leaders to take similar steps to erase marijuana convictions. / AP

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