Justice Department officially moves to reclassify cannabis

reclassify cannabis

*The Associated Press contributed to this piece.

The Justice Department on Thursday formally moved to reclassify cannabis as a less dangerous drug in a historic shift in generations of U.S. drug policy.

A proposed rule sent to the federal register recognizes the medical uses of cannabis and acknowledges it has less potential for abuse than substances like heroin. The plan approved by Attorney General Merrick Garland does not legalize marijuana outright for recreational use—nor does it expunge criminal records.

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The Drug Enforcement Administration will take public comment on the proposal to move marijuana away 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.

The move comes after a recommendation from the federal Health and Human Services Department, which launched a review of the drug’s status at the urging of President Joe Biden in 2022. Previously leaked commentary indicated the decision was imminent.

President Biden posted a video on X (formerly Twitter), calling the action “monumental.”

“Far too many lives have been upended because of a failed approach to marijuana, and I’m committed to righting those wrongs,” Biden said. “You have my word on it.”

The notice of proposed rulemaking submitted to the federal register kicks off a 60-day comment period followed by a possible review from an administrative judge, a potentially lengthy process.

Biden and a growing number of lawmakers from both major political parties have been pushing for the DEA decision as marijuana has become increasingly decriminalized and accepted, particularly by younger people. Recent polling suggests the Biden camp needs to sway Gen Z voters in the 2024 presidential election, and cannabis reform could make a difference with the demographic.

rachelle gordon

Rachelle Gordon is a cannabis journalist, Emerald Cup judge, Budist critic, and editor of GreenState.com. She began her weed writing journey in 2015 and has been featured in High Times, CannabisNow, Beard Bros, MG, Skunk, and many others. Rachelle currently splits her time between Minneapolis and Oakland; her favorite cannabis cultivars include Silver Haze and Tangie. Follow Rachelle on Instagram @rachellethewriter