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Biden Administration Initiates Reclassification of Marijuana, Aiming to Shift from Schedule I to Schedule III

In a landmark move, the Biden administration has formally begun the process to reclassify marijuana, proposing to shift its designation from Schedule I to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act. This significant policy shift was announced during President Joe Biden's remarks on his "Investing in America agenda" at Gateway Technical College in Sturtevant, Wisconsin.

For over fifty years, marijuana has been classified under Schedule I, a category reserved for substances considered to have no medicinal value and a high potential for abuse. The reclassification to Schedule III, recommended by the Department of Health and Human Services and advanced by the Department of Justice, marks a substantial change in federal drug policy.

“This is monumental. Today my administration took a major step to reclassify marijuana from a schedule one drug to a schedule three drug. It’s an important move toward reversing long-standing inequities,” stated President Biden. He emphasized the broader impacts of this change, including previously implemented measures to pardon federal offenses for simple possession and enhance access to housing, employment, and small business loans for affected individuals.

The reclassification involves a formal rulemaking process, including a public comment period, an administrative hearing, and a final review by the Drug Enforcement Administration. The proposed rule has been submitted to the Federal Register, initiating a 60-day comment period that will influence the final decision.

While this development has been celebrated as a step forward, some marijuana and drug policy experts express that it falls short of the necessary reforms. A Schedule III designation still imposes certain legal consequences, and experts argue that complete decriminalization would require legislative action to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act entirely.

The move to reclassify reflects an acknowledgment of marijuana's medicinal benefits and a lower potential for abuse compared to substances in Schedule I. It also aims to adjust production limits, research opportunities, and legal consequences associated with marijuana.

In his recorded statement, President Biden described the initiative as "monumental" and reaffirmed his commitment to correcting past policy failures associated with marijuana criminalization. "Far too many lives have been upended because of a failed approach to marijuana, and I’m committed to righting those wrongs," he affirmed.

As the administration takes these steps toward reclassification, the federal stance on marijuana continues to evolve, signaling a potentially transformative period in how marijuana is perceived and managed in the United States.

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