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Federal health officials recommend reclassifying marijuana

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(The Hill) – The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has sent its findings on marijuana to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as part of the Biden administration’s efforts into possibly altering marijuana’s status in the U.S.

In October 2022, President Biden requested that the HHS Secretary and the Attorney General conduct a review of how marijuana is currently scheduled under federal law. Marijuana is currently classified as Schedule I controlled substances, meaning the DEA considers it a drug “with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

HHS on Tuesday confirmed it sent its findings to the DEA this week.

“Following the data and science, HHS has expeditiously responded to President Biden’s directive to HHS Secretary Becerra and provided its scheduling recommendation for marijuana to the DEA on August 29, 2023,” an HHS spokesperson said.

The spokesperson did not specify what the department’s exact recommendation was. According to an HHS letter obtained by Bloomberg, the agency recommended reclassifying marijuana as a Schedule III drug, a substance considered to have “moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence”

There are five schedules the DEA categorizes drugs into. Examples of Schedule III drugs include products with up to 90 mg codeine per dose, anabolic steroids and ketamine.

Currently, 23 states and D.C. have enacted laws regulating the non-medical use of marijuana for adults. Several others have medical marijuana programs in place, but federal law still prohibits the possession of any amount of marijuana.

“We can confirm DEA received a letter from the Department of Health and Human Services providing its findings and recommendation on marijuana scheduling, pursuant to President Biden’s request for a review,” a DEA spokesperson told The Hill.

“As part of this process, HHS conducted a scientific and medical evaluation for consideration by DEA. DEA has the final authority to schedule or reschedule a drug under the Controlled Substances Act. DEA will now initiate its review.”

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined to comment on the process when asked about possibly rescheduling marijuana on Wednesday, noting it is “independent” and led by HHS and the Justice Department.

“[Biden’s] asking HHS and DOJ to take a look at it, to do an initial administrative kind of process or review if you will” Jean-Pierre said. “It’s going to be an independent process. They’re going to certainly use the evidence. It’s going to be guided by evidence and so I’m going to leave it to HHS and DOJ to move that process

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