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Federal Drug Czar Says Re-Classifying Marijuana Will Have “Historic Impact”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Biden Administration’s drug czar discussed the impact of re-classifying marijuana under federal law in a recent interview with the Star Tribune.

The director of the Office of National Drug Policy, Dr. Rahul Gupta, made his comments a week after the Justice Department submitted a proposed rule that would shift marijuana from a Schedule I drug to a less dangerous Schedule III.

Marijuana has been categorized as Schedule I since 1971, subjecting it to the same restrictions under federal law as narcotics such as heroin, methamphetamines and LSD.

Under Schedule III it would be classified along with substances such as Tylenol with codeine, steroids and testosterone, that are acknowledged to have less potential for abuse.

The rescheduling would also allow cannabis to be studied and researched to identify its medical benefits.

Gupta said the move would have a “historic and long-lasting impact”, stressing the importance of making marijuana laws less strict and punitive.

“We’ve had a policy for over half a century where so many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana,” Gupta said. “We’ve had so many people arrested, prosecuted and incarcerated. We know white, Black and brown people use marijuana at similar rates, but Black and brown incarceration rates are higher.”

In 2022, President Biden launched an initiative by his administration to review how marijuana is classified under federal law.  The president also moved to pardon thousands of Americans convicted on federal charges of simple marijuana possession, and urged governors and local leaders to do the same.

The Drug Enforcement Administration is currently accepting public comments on the proposed rule change. Gupta said the rescheduling process would continue through the end of the year.

He said categorizing marijuana as Schedule III would not only lead to more research into the benefits of medical marijuana, it would also bring long-overdue reforms to the country’s drug laws.

“The historic nature of the actions we’re taking cannot be minimized,” Gupta said. “The country’s drug policy overall has caused too many lives to be lost and others to be impacted negatively. The president has been very consistent: No one should be in jail for using or possessing marijuana. These steps to move marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III is a policy that is consistent with science in the 21st century.”

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