Cannabis may finally be federally rescheduled from its Schedule I controlled substance status to a less severe designation, a senior official with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said this week.
“I can now share that, following the data and science, @HHSGov has responded to @POTUS’ directive to me for the Department to provide a scheduling recommendation for marijuana to the DEA,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a tweet published at 4:20 p.m. EST Wednesday. “We’ve worked to ensure that a scientific evaluation be completed and shared expeditiously.”
HHS has recommended the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reschedule cannabis from a Schedule I substance to a Schedule III substance, according to Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
Schedule I controlled substances “have no currently accepted medical use in the United States,” while Schedule III substances “have a potential for abuse less than substances in Schedules I or II,” according to the DEA.
“HHS has done the right thing and DEA should now quickly follow through on this important step to greatly reduce the harm caused by draconian marijuana laws,” Schumer said in a statement. “While this is a step forward, there is still much more that needs to be done legislatively to end the federal prohibition on cannabis and roll back the War on Drugs. I am committed to continuing to work in Congress to pass important marijuana legislation and criminal justice reform.”
The announcement from Secretary Becerra comes less than a year after President Biden requested Becerra and Attorney General Merrick Garland to reexamine how cannabis is federally scheduled.
“We classify marijuana at the same level as heroin – and more serious than fentanyl. It makes no sense,” Biden said in a tweet in Oct. 2022. “I’m asking @SecBecerra and the Attorney General to initiate the process of reviewing how marijuana is scheduled under federal law.”
The news of cannabis’ potential rescheduling at the federal level was largely applauded across the cannabis industry.
“We enthusiastically welcome today’s news,” the U.S. Cannabis Council said in a tweet. “President Biden and his Administration recognized that cannabis was wrongly classified as a Schedule I controlled substance, and they are delivering on their promise to change it.”
“Big news for our industry today with @HHSGov recommending to @DEAHQ to move cannabis to Schedule 3,” Curaleaf CEO Matt Darin said in a tweet. “It’s time for this plant to be recognized for what it is – a natural medicine that adults should have legal and safe access to.”