The U.S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has sent a letter to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recommending that cannabis be reclassified from Schedule I to Schedule III under federal law. This would class the drug as having low potential for addiction and abuse.
The historic recommendation has been revealed in a leaked letter to Bloomberg from an official from HHS nearly ten months following Biden’s request for a review of the federal scheduling of cannabis, which is currently a Schedule I drug.
Following Biden’s request, HHS carried out a scientific review in order to provide the recommendation, which will now pass over responsibility to the DEA to decide whether cannabis should be rescheduled – an organisation that has typically deemed cannabis as having no medical value.
Such a recheduling would see cannabis still federally prohibited, however, it would enable scientific research as it would remove strict DEA processes for studies, allow federal tax deduction for the cannabis industry and potentially support efforts for cannabis banking legislation.
Cannabis reform group NORML, which has advocated for the rescheduling of cannabis to align with tobacco, has now argued that rescheduling cannabis to Schedule III “still leaves state legalization laws at odds with federal regulations, perpetuating the divide between state and federal cannabis policies.”
NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano stated: “The goal of any federal cannabis policy reform ought to be to address the existing, untenable chasm between federal marijuana policy and the cannabis laws of the majority of US states.
“Rescheduling the cannabis plant to Schedule III of the US Controlled Substances Act fails to adequately address this conflict, as existing state legalisation laws — both adult use and medical — will continue to be in conflict with federal regulations, thereby perpetuating the existing divide between state and federal marijuana policies.”
“Just as it is intellectually dishonest to categorize cannabis in the same placement as heroin, it is equally disingenuous to treat cannabis in the same manner as anabolic steroids. The majority of Americans believe that cannabis ought to be legal and that its hazards to health are less significant than those associated with federally descheduled substances like alcohol and tobacco.
“Like those latter substances, we have long argued the cannabis plant should be removed from the Controlled Substances Act altogether, thereby providing state governments — rather than the federal government — the ability to regulate marijuana in the manner they see fit without violating federal law.”