Biden Requests Cannabis to be Rescheduled to Class 3

Liz Filmer
01 Sep 2023

In what may be the most meaningful change in federal drug policy since Nixon's "War on Drugs", the Biden administration has asked the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to demote cannabis from a Schedule I to a Schedule III substance. As a Schedule I controlled substance, cannabis has a high likelihood of abuse and no medical use.

A drop to Schedule III would place cannabis in the same category as ketamine, anabolic steroids and testosterone. All drugs are deemed to have 'moderate to low potential for dependence'.

Twenty-three states have already legalised cannabis for recreational use, and are approved for medical use in 38 states. However, it is still illegal at the federal level.

For federal legalisation, the DEA would have to reschedule the drug completely. This is a much more intense process that requires recommendations from numerous government agencies and congressional action. 

Rescheduling cannabis could significantly change how the drug is used, studied and regulated.

Downgrading cannabis could allow for more potential research to be conducted to change how tax is collected and how cannabis-related offences are prosecuted. 

Cannabis legalisation has seen much support in the US. In 2019, cannabis use in those aged 12 years and older increased to 17.5% from 11% in 2002. Use was most increased amongst the 18 to 25 age group.

Despite President Joe Biden's recent motivation to ease cannabis restrictions, he hasn't always been so pro-cannabis. In 2010, the then-vice was quoted as saying:

'I still believe it's a gateway drug. I've spent a lot of my life as chairman of the Judiciary Committee dealing with this. I think it would be a mistake to legalise'.

In 2019, Biden commented similarly, saying, 'There's not nearly enough evidence to assess whether it is a gateway drug'. 

However, his previous opinions didn't prevent him from exonerating anyone convicted of a federal crime simply for possessing cannabis and directing his government to expedite a review of the drug's class in October.

On Wednesday, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra announced 'I can now share that, following the data and science, HHS has responded to the presidents for the department to provide a scheduling recommendation for cannabis to the DEA.

More on this topic from Soft Secrets:

Biden Signs Cannabis Research Reform

Charges for weed offences fell in 2022

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Liz Filmer