The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has delivered its analysis on marijuana’s classification to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), indicating a potential shift in marijuana’s legal status in the U.S.
In light of the Biden administration’s push to reassess the federal position on marijuana, President Biden, in October 2022, mandated that both the HHS secretary and the attorney general reassess marijuana’s classification under current federal regulations. Presently, marijuana stands as a Schedule I controlled substance, indicating its categorization as a drug “with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”
On Tuesday, the HHS confirmed the dispatch of their conclusions to the DEA.
“In adherence to scientific insights and evidence, HHS has promptly acted upon President Biden’s directive to HHS Secretary [Xavier Becerra], forwarding its scheduling suggestions for marijuana to the DEA on August 29, 2023,” conveyed an HHS representative.
While the exact details of the recommendation remain undisclosed, a document from HHS procured by Bloomberg reveals the department’s advice to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule III drug. This categorization represents substances seen as having a “moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence.”
The DEA, for its part, breaks down drugs into five distinct schedules. Schedule III substances, for example, encompass products with up to 90 mg of codeine per dosage, anabolic steroids, and ketamine.
As of now, 23 states and the District of Columbia recognize laws for the non-medical use of marijuana by adults. Additionally, several states have instituted medical marijuana initiatives, yet federal legislation maintains its prohibition on any marijuana possession.
Confirming the receipt of the HHS letter, a DEA spokesperson remarked, “DEA acknowledges the acquisition of the Department of Health and Human Services’ conclusions and suggestions on the potential rescheduling of marijuana, aligning with President Biden’s call for a comprehensive assessment.”
Continuing the spokesperson noted, “Under this protocol, HHS furnished a scientifically-backed medical examination for DEA’s consideration. As the ultimate authority under the Controlled Substances Act, the DEA will embark on its evaluation.”
When approached for comments regarding the potential reclassification of marijuana, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre emphasized the autonomy of the procedure, underlining its management by the HHS and the Department of Justice (DOJ).
“President Biden has ushered the HHS and DOJ to scrutinize the matter through an autonomous preliminary administrative review,” Jean-Pierre stated. “This procedure will be steered by evidence, and hence, its progression remains in the hands of the HHS and DOJ.”