Authorities move to reclassify marijuana as less dangerous drug

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is moving toward reclassifying marijuana as a less dangerous drug, recognizing its medical uses and marking a historic shift in federal drug policy, according to multiple reports.

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Sources confirmed the plan to The Associated Press, The Washington Post and NBC News on Tuesday. It would not make recreational use of the drug legal nationwide but would acknowledge that it has less potential for abuse than some of the most dangerous drugs. It is currently classified among them.

The DEA categorizes marijuana as a Schedule I drug alongside heroin, ecstasy and LSD. Drugs under that category have “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse,” according to officials.

The DEA is expected to propose that the drug be reclassified as a Schedule III drug, the Post reported. Those drugs carry “a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence” and include substances such as Tylenol with codeine, ketamine, steroids and testosterone.

A Biden administration official declined to comment on the expected change on Tuesday, telling NBC News that the Justice Department “continues to work on this rule.” The plan will need to be signed off by the White House Office of Management and Budget before it can move forward, the AP reported.

The move comes after the Department of Health and Human Services last year urged the DEA to reclassify marijuana. President Joe Biden has also for changes to what he’s called America’s “failed approach to marijuana.”

“Criminal records for marijuana use and possession have imposed needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities,” he said in December. “Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana. It’s time that we right these wrongs.”

Since taking office in 2021, Biden has pardoned thousands of Americans convicted of marijuana possession under federal law.

Thirty-eight states, three U.S. territories and Washington, D.C., have legalized marijuana for medical use while 24 states, two U.S. territories and Washington, D.C., have legalized possession of small amounts for recreational use by adults, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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