Article image

U.S. plans to reclassify marijuana and ease restrictions

Marijuana’s place in American law has been fiercely debated for decades. But now, in a remarkable move, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has announced plans to reclassify marijuana. This decision marks a major turning point in how many Americans perceive this complex plant and its place in society.

“Today, the Attorney General circulated a proposal to reclassify marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III,” Justice Department director of public affairs Xochitl Hinojosa said in a statement. “Once published by the Federal Register, it will initiate a formal rulemaking process as prescribed by Congress in the Controlled Substances Act.”

Reclassifying marijuana to Schedule III

The DEA is suggesting a significant policy shift by proposing the removal of marijuana from Schedule I. Since its classification in the early 1970s, marijuana has been placed in the same category as highly dangerous drugs such as heroin and LSD.

This classification suggests that these substances have a high potential for abuse and no recognized medical benefits. However, the new proposal aims to change this longstanding stance.

Under the proposed changes, marijuana would be reclassified to Schedule III. This category includes drugs like ketamine and some anabolic steroids, which are considered to have a lower potential for abuse than Schedule I or II substances.

The shift of marijuana to Schedule III would acknowledge its medicinal benefits. Recent medical studies have increasingly recognized these benefits. It would also show that marijuana is less addictive and less dangerous compared to more strictly regulated drugs.

This reclassification demonstrates a deeper understanding of marijuana’s effects. It highlights its potential for treatment in various medical contexts.

What does reclassifying marijuana mean?

The reclassification has several implications:

Shifting public opinion

The transformation in public perception of marijuana is remarkable, with an increasing majority now favoring its legalization, a sentiment particularly strong among younger demographics. This broad support has spurred politicians, including President Joe Biden, to respond to these changing tides.

President Biden recognizes the need for policy reform regarding marijuana. He has advocated for expunging criminal records related to marijuana offenses. Additionally, he has initiated reviews of existing national drug policies.

These actions reflect a societal move towards a more lenient stance on marijuana. They acknowledge its broad acceptance and the unfair consequences of previously stringent laws.

Medical potential

As research continues to evolve, the medical applications of marijuana are becoming more evident. Although it is not a panacea, marijuana has been found effective in managing chronic pain, controlling epileptic seizures, and alleviating the adverse side effects of chemotherapy.

The proposed move of marijuana to Schedule III could potentially reduce the regulatory barriers that currently impede scientific research. This change would enable more thorough and expansive studies on marijuana.

As a result, it may lead to the discovery and validation of new medical applications for this previously stigmatized plant.

Burgeoning cannabis industry

The economic implications of marijuana’s reclassification are profound, particularly for the burgeoning cannabis industry. Currently experiencing rapid growth, this sector could see an alleviation of heavy tax burdens.

Additionally, such a move could make the industry more appealing to banks and financial institutions, which have historically been hesitant to engage with cannabis businesses due to its Schedule I status. The potential influx of banking support and reduced taxation could significantly stimulate further growth and stability in the cannabis market, making it a more integral part of the national economy.

“While this rescheduling announcement is a historic step forward, I remain strongly committed to continuing to work on legislation like the SAFER Banking Act as well as the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, which federally deschedules cannabis by removing it from the Controlled Substances Act,” Senate Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York said.

“Congress must do everything we can to end the federal prohibition on cannabis and address longstanding harms caused by the War on Drugs.”

The shift primarily recognizes marijuana’s medical benefits rather than endorsing its recreational use. While this reclassification opens doors for medical research and treatment, the legal status of recreational marijuana use continues to be a complex and separate debate. This distinction is important for understanding the limits and implications of the DEA’s proposed changes.

Future outlook on reclassifying marijuana

The process of reclassifying marijuana involves several key steps, including a period for public comment and a thorough review process. Due to these requirements, the exact timeline for when these changes will be implemented remains uncertain.

The interaction between state and federal laws concerning marijuana might become even more complex with this reclassification. States have their own varied laws regarding marijuana use, and changes at the federal level could either harmonize or further complicate this legal landscape.

There are concerns among some critics that reclassifying marijuana could lead to unintended negative consequences. As this change unfolds, it will be crucial to monitor its impacts to fully understand its effects on society and the legal system. The complete range of these outcomes will only become clear with time.

The DEA’s proposed shift in marijuana policy reflects changing public attitudes, potential benefits to medical research, and a burgeoning industry. While full-scale legalization isn’t on the immediate horizon, this proposal marks a significant step in a long and complex journey reshaping the United States’ relationship with marijuana.


Like what you read? Subscribe to our newsletter for engaging articles, exclusive content, and the latest updates. 

Check us out on EarthSnap, a free app brought to you by Eric Ralls and


News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day