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FDA Proposes Re-Classifying Marijuana as Lower-Risk Drug

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Food and Drug Administration has proposed reclassifying marijuana as a lower-risk drug, according to a CNN report.

In a letter to the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FDA asked that marijuana be classified as a Schedule III substance rather than its current Schedule 1 classification, which is used for the most dangerous controlled substances including heroin and LSD.

The DEA defines Schedule III drugs as those with a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence with lower abuse potential than the Schedule I and II categories.  Among the drugs currently labeled as Schedule III are ketamine, anabolic steroids, testosterone and Tylenol with codeine.

“Although abuse of marijuana produces clear evidence of harmful consequences, including substance use disorder, they are relatively less common and less harmful than some other comparator drugs,” the FDA said.

Among the reasons the FDA said it favored rescheduling marijuana was that it is currently accepted for medical use in treatment in the United States.  Scientists found that “there exists some credible scientific support for the medical use of marijuana in at least one of the indications for which there is widespread current experience.”  Data showed therapeutic uses for marijuana in clinical practice, including treating anorexia, pain, and nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy, Marijuana is legal for medicinal purposes in 38 states.

The FDA said dependence is “relatively mild” for most individuals but can be more severe with increased exposure. “While marijuana is associated with a high prevalence of abuse, the profile of and propensity for serious outcomes related to that abuse lead to a conclusion that marijuana is most appropriately controlled in Schedule III,” the agency said.

The letter to the DEA was written by Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary Rachel Levine after President Biden asked the HHS and US Attorney General to review how marijuana is classified under federal law.  The DEA will now take the matter under consideration and will schedule a public comment period before making a final decision on any changes to the classification of marijuana.

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