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Justice Department Submits Proposed Rule To Reclassify Marijuana

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Justice Department has taken the next step in the process of reclassifying marijuana as a lower risk drug, the Associated Press reports.

On Thursday the department submitted a proposed rule to the Federal Register, approved by Attorney General Merrick Garland, that would shift marijuana from a Schedule I drug to 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.

The submission of the proposed reclassification rule opens a 60-day period in which the Drug Enforcement Administration will take public comments on the proposal.  It may also have to undergo review by an administrative law judge before it is finalized.  During that time, and until a final rule is published, marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance.

It is the latest step in a process that began in 2022, when President Joe 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.

“This is monumental,” Biden said in a statement announcing the proposed rule submitted by the Justice Department. “Far too many lives have been upended because of a failed approach to marijuana, and I’m committed to righting those wrongs. You have my word on it.”

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