Thu. Jun 13th, 2024

Justice Department takes ‘major step’ toward rescheduling marijuana

By 37ci3 May16,2024


WASHINGTON — The Justice Department took a major step toward reclassifying marijuana Thursday, formalizing the process of reclassifying the drug as lower risk and removing it from a category considered more dangerous than fentanyl and meth.

President Joe Biden announced the “huge” move in a live-cam video posted on his official X account. “This is monumental,” Biden said in his message. “This is an important step towards eliminating long-standing inequalities. … Too many lives have been ruined by a failed approach to marijuana, and I am committed to righting those wrongs. I have a word.”

It was the Biden administration alarm he said he would move the drug from Schedule I — a strict classification that includes drugs like heroin — to the less strict Schedule III, which recognizes the drug’s medical benefits at the federal level for the first time. The Drug Enforcement Administration filed a notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register Thursday afternoon, triggering a 60-day comment period that will allow members of the public to submit comments before the rescheduling proposal is finalized.

Biden first ordered federal agencies to review how marijuana was planned in October 2022, weeks before that year’s midterm elections. The process was led by DOJ and the Department of Health and Human Services.

“Look folks, no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana. Period,” Biden said in a video Thursday, the third time he’s spoken at length on the topic since issuing the directive two years ago.

Biden addressed the issue for the second time, making history by referring to marijuana from the House floor during this year’s State of the Union address. “No one should be arrested for using or possessing marijuana,” he said.

Vice President Kamala Harris also released a video Thursday praising the progress.

“Marijuana is currently classified on the same level as heroin and is more dangerous than fentanyl. We’re finally changing that,” Harris said. “We’re well on our way to making it happen.”

During the first 30 days of the comment period, interested parties may request a hearing on the rezoning proposal. Under the statute, the DEA must hold a hearing before an administrative law judge.

After DEA has reviewed and considered public comments and at the conclusion of any hearings, DEA will issue a final order to reschedule marijuana. (The DEA could refuse to re-designate the drug, but that’s unlikely given the administration’s strong support).

The whole process can last from several months to a year.

Once completed, federal scientists will be able to research and study the drug’s potential medical benefits for the first time since the Controlled Substances Act of 1971 was enacted. It could also open the door for pharmaceutical companies to get involved in sales and distribution. in states where medical marijuana is legal.

For the $34 billion cannabis industry, the move would also remove significant tax burdens on businesses in states where the drug is legal, notably removing it from Section 280E of the IRS code, which prohibits legal cannabis companies from deducting ordinary business expenses.

Joe Biden walks in the garden
President Joe Biden in the Rose Garden on Monday, May 13, 2024. Washington Post via Demetrius Freeman/Getty Images

The Justice Department’s rescheduling decision could help curtail the black market, which thrives despite legalization in states like New York and California and undercuts heavily regulated and highly taxed legal markets.

Dr. president of the group to fight against the legalization of marijuana. Kevin Sabet condemned the decision. “It has become undeniable that this decision is made by politics, not science, and it has been so from the beginning. This decision will not legalize marijuana and will not release anyone from prison or jail,” Sabet said. “It sets the stage for the Big Tobacco of our time.”

During Biden’s tenure issued amnesties for prior federal offenses of simple possession of marijuana, and issued a announcement granting additional pardons for simple possession, simple possession and attempted use of a drug.

The White House has urged governors in their states to do the same, and some have heeded the call, including Oregon and Massachusetts.

Democrats in Congress continue a partisan effort to remove marijuana entirely from the Controlled Substances Act, empower states to create their own marijuana laws, and prioritize restorative and economic justice for those affected by the “war on drugs.”

“Congress must do everything we can to end the federal ban on marijuana and reverse the long-standing harms of the War on Drugs,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said earlier this month.



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By 37ci3

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