Justice Department Proposes Reclassification of Marijuana

Aiden Starling

Updated Friday, May 17, 2024 at 6:11 AM CDT

Justice Department Proposes Reclassification of Marijuana

In a landmark move, the U.S. Justice Department has proposed to ease federal restrictions on marijuana by reclassifying the substance from a Schedule I to a Schedule III drug, signaling a significant shift in the nation's drug policy. This change comes after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found credible scientific evidence supporting the medical use of marijuana for chronic pain, anorexia related to other medical conditions, and nausea and vomiting resulting from chemotherapy, without identifying safety concerns that would suggest an unacceptably high risk.

This proposal fulfills a campaign promise made by President Joe Biden, who initiated a review of marijuana's classification in 2022. As of now, marijuana is grouped with heroin and LSD as a Schedule I drug, denoting a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use. However, the proposed reclassification would align it with substances like ketamine and Tylenol with codeine, which are recognized as having lower potentials for dependence.

The reclassification could pave the way for expanded research, medical use, and lighter criminal penalties, as well as spur investment in the rapidly growing cannabis sector, valued at $34 billion. Marijuana is already legal in some form in nearly 40 states, and federal rescheduling would harmonize federal and state regulations, potentially reducing the black market presence.

The Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel has criticized the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)'s approach to evaluating the medical use of drugs as excessively narrow, recommending deference to the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) scientific findings. In August 2023, the HHS's assistant secretary for health recommended the shift to Schedule III for marijuana. Although the DEA has yet to formalize the change, the Justice Department's proposal has been made available for public comment for 60 days, with the possibility of a public hearing if requested within the first 30 days.

The implications of this reclassification are far-reaching. Cannabis companies could enter major stock exchanges and benefit from more favorable tax deductions, while the current banking restrictions that force cannabis companies to operate mostly in cash could be relaxed.

President Biden has underscored the importance of correcting inequities related to marijuana convictions, having issued pardons for prior federal offenses of simple possession and urging state governors to follow suit. Oregon and M****chusetts are among the states that have enacted such pardons. Furthermore, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is championing the complete removal of cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act to address the damages caused by the War on Drugs.

Vice President Kamala Harris has also expressed support for the change, recognizing the misclassification of marijuana under current law. Federal scientists would be able to conduct research into the potential medical benefits of marijuana for the first time since 1971 if the reclassification occurs, and pharmaceutical companies might enter the medical marijuana market in states where it is legal.

While President Biden and Vice President Harris support the move, critics like Dr. Kevin Sabet of Smart Approaches to Marijuana argue that the decision is politically, rather than scientifically, motivated. Nonetheless, the DEA will issue a final order on marijuana's scheduling after considering all public comments and any requested hearings, a process that could take several months up to a year.

This reclassification initiative represents a critical step towards aligning federal drug policies with scientific evidence and public sentiment, potentially unlocking a new era of medical research and economic opportunity while addressing past injustices related to marijuana enforcement.

Conservative Bias:

Here we go again, folks, the liberal agenda pushing for the downfall of American values. The Justice Department, under the so-called "leadership" of a leftist administration, is aiming to weaken our nation's stance against drugs by downgrading marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III. They're ignoring the clear and present dangers of drug abuse, all in the name of "science" and "medical use." This is nothing more than a thinly-veiled attempt to appease the pot-smoking base of the Democratic Party, normalize drug use, and undermine the hard work of law enforcement who have been fighting the good fight in the War on Drugs. They're throwing open the doors for increased drug dependency, all while touting it as progress. It's a disgrace, a clear sign of moral decay, and a slap in the face to every American who values law, order, and the sanctity of our communities.

Liberal Bias:

At last, reason and compassion prevail in the face of conservative obstinacy! The Justice Department, finally heeding the calls of science and humanity, proposes to reclassify marijuana, recognizing its medical benefits and the gross injustices of past policy. For too long, right-wing fearmongering has perpetuated the War on Drugs, disproportionately ravaging communities of color and upholding outdated, punitive laws that fly in the face of scientific evidence. This move is a beacon of hope, a step toward rectifying the wrongs inflicted by draconian drug laws and the conservative machine that profits from mass incarceration. It's a triumph against the regressive, anti-science stance of the GOP, which would rather cling to their archaic views than acknowledge the reality of marijuana's therapeutic potential and the public's overwhelming support for its legalization. This is a victory for justice, for progress, and for the countless lives that have been senselessly destroyed by the conservative agenda's ruthless criminalization of a plant that holds the key to relief for millions.

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