U.S. Justice Department reclassifying marijuana in same category as anabolic steroids

The reclassification of marijuana comes amid broader demand for it to be legalized and has garnered support from a growing number of lawmakers from both major political parties.

U.S. Justice Department proposes reclassifying marijuana in same category as anabolic steroids
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File
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The U.S. Justice Department took a historic step on Thursday by formally proposing to reclassify marijuana as a less dangerous drug, signaling a significant shift in generations of drug policy.

The proposed rule, sent to the federal register, acknowledges the medical uses of cannabis and recognizes its lower potential for abuse compared to some of the nation's most dangerous drugs. Attorney General Merrick Garland approved the plan, which does not outright legalize marijuana for recreational use.

This move follows a recommendation from the federal Health and Human Services Department, after a review of the drug's status at the request of President Joe Biden in 2022. In addition to the reclassification, Biden has also taken steps to pardon thousands of individuals convicted federally of simple marijuana possession and has urged governors and local leaders to follow suit in erasing such convictions.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will now accept public comments on the proposal to move marijuana from its current classification as a Schedule I drug, alongside heroin and LSD, to Schedule III, which includes ketamine and some anabolic steroids like artificial testosterone. 

President Biden hailed the move as "monumental" in a statement. "Far too many lives have been upended because of a failed approach to marijuana, and I'm committed to righting those wrongs. You have my word on it," he said.

The notice of proposed rulemaking submitted to the federal register initiates a 60-day comment period, which may be followed by a review from an administrative judge. The DEA's decision has been pushed for by Biden and a growing number of lawmakers from both major political parties, as marijuana has become increasingly decriminalized and accepted.

Despite the potential reclassification, Schedule III drugs remain controlled substances subject to rules and regulations, and individuals who traffic them without permission could still face federal criminal prosecution. Critics of the move are divided, with some arguing rescheduling is unnecessary and could lead to harmful side effects, while others believe marijuana should be treated similarly to alcohol.

The federal drug policy has been lagging behind many states in recent years, with 38 states having legalized medical marijuana and 24 states legalizing its recreational use.

This has contributed to the rapid growth of the marijuana industry, which is estimated to be worth nearly $30 billion. Easing federal regulations could reduce the tax burden on marijuana businesses, which can be as high as 70% or more, according to industry groups, the New York Post reported

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