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Child Psychiatrist /Adult Psychiatrist

DOJ Officially Moves to Reclassify Marijuana as Schedule III

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) officially moved to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule III controlled substance on Thursday, marking a major shift in US policy on cannabis that has been years in the making.


The DOJ issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to the Federal Register, which jumpstarts a 60-day public comment period, followed by a possible review from an administrative judge.

"This proposal starts the process, where the Drug Enforcement Administration will gather and consider information and views submitted by the public, in order to make a determination about the appropriate schedule. During that process, and until a final rule is published, marijuana remains a schedule I controlled substance," a statement released May 16 by the DOJ reads.

A DOJ spokesperson told Medscape Medical News that although the proposed rule was submitted this week, it is unclear how long it will take for it to officially appear on the Federal Register site.

The official filing is the latest step in a process that began in October 2022 with a directive from President Joe Biden to the US Attorney General and the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to conduct a scientific review of marijuana scheduling under federal law.

A 2023 report from the US Food and Drug Administration, part of HHS, determined that marijuana has a legitimate medical use and should be moved from a Schedule I controlled substance to Schedule III.

In early May 2024, the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) announced plans to follow that recommendation, as reported by Medscape Medical News.

The DEA defines Schedule I drugs as those with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. That class includes heroin, LSD, and ecstasy. Schedule III drugs have a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence and have a currently accepted medical use. This class includes ketamine, acetaminophen with codeine, and buprenorphine.

Even though the manufacturing, distribution, sale, and use of marijuana has long violated federal law, 38 states and Washington, DC, have legalized medical cannabis, and 24 states and DC have legalized its recreational use.

Under the proposed rule, medical cannabis can be legally prescribed in states that have legalized the drug for that use. The manufacture, distribution, and possession of recreational marijuana would remain illegal under federal law.

In a video and statement released Thursday, President Joe Biden called the step "monumental."

"At my request, and guided by science and evidence, HHS and DOJ have studied the drug's medical use and abuse and dependency potential and are recommending rescheduling, concluding reclassification would remove barriers to critical research," Biden said.

Note: This article originally appeared on Medscape

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