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The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has sent its findings on marijuana to the DEA as part of the Biden administration’s efforts to possibly alter marijuana’s status in the US.

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 a Schedule I controlled substance, meaning the DEA considers it a drug “with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

Schedule I substances also include heroin, ecstasy, LSD, peyote, and methaqualone (quaaludes).
Fentanyl, a medical pain killer, is listed as Schedule II and has been responsible for over 70,000 overdose deaths in the US last year. Cocaine, oxycodone, and methamphetamine are also listed as Schedule II drugs.

According to an HHS letter obtained by Bloomberg, the agency recommended reclassifying marijuana as a Schedule III drug, or a substance considered to have “moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence.”
Examples of Schedule III drugs include products with up to 90 mg of codeine per dose, anabolic steroids, and ketamine.

States Legalizing Marijuana

Currently, 23 states and Washington, D.C. have enacted laws regulating the non-medical (recreational) use of marijuana for adults. Dozens of others have medical marijuana programs in place, but federal law still prohibits the growing, manufacturing, sale, and 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 stated. “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 Wednesday, noting it is “independent” and led by HHS and the Department of Justice (DOJ).

“[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.”