US Formally Proposes Reclassifying Marijuana as Low-risk Drug

Fri May 17 2024
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WASHINGTON, United States: US President Joe Biden’s administration Thursday formally proposed reclassifying marijuana as a less dangerous drug, a historic shift that would bring the government policy more in line with public opinion.

“No one should be in jail merely for using or possessing marijuana. Period,” Biden said in a video statement as he committed to righting those wrongs.

Marijuana has been classified as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) since 1970 – on the same level as heroin, ecstasy and LSD. This classification means that it is considered to have no medical use and a high potential for abuse.

However, under the proposal, it would be downgraded to a Schedule III drug, placing it alongside drugs such as ketamine and codeine-containing painkillers, which are thought to have a moderate to low likelihood of addiction.

The proposal to reclassify cannabis was introduced by the Biden administration in late April, and the Justice Department officially launched the process today.

Marijuana will remain a controlled substance until the process — which includes a public comment period and possible hearing before a judge — is complete.

The country saw a federal review of marijuana policy under president Biden for the first time in 2022.

The issue is seen as a potential vote-winner for Biden when he faces Republican Donald Trump in a tough election rematch this November, particularly among the younger people the current Democratic president is courting.

According to a poll, 88 percent of Americans believe marijuana should be legal for medical or recreational use. Only 11 percent said it shouldn’t be legal at all.

Cannabis was first banned at the federal level in 1937, critics say the decision was made largely based on racist ideas, as the drug was seen as intimately connected to jazz music, Mexican immigrants and the black community.

The 1970s brought the “war on drugs,” which also disproportionately affected minorities—before the medical marijuana movement took root in the 1990s.

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