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Joe Biden Administration Proposes Reclassifying Marijuana as Less Dangerous Drug, Aligning with Public Opinion

Washington, D.C. – In a historic shift, President Joe Biden‘s administration formally proposed on Thursday to reclassify marijuana as a less dangerous drug, reflecting a growing consensus among Americans. The proposal aims to downgrade marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule III drug under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

Since 1970, marijuana has been classified as a Schedule I drug, the same category as heroin, ecstasy, and LSD, indicating it has no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. The proposed reclassification to Schedule III would align marijuana with drugs like ketamine and codeine, considered to have a moderate to low likelihood of dependence.

“No one should be in jail merely for using or possessing marijuana. Period,” Biden asserted in a video statement. “Far too many lives have been upended because of a failed approach to marijuana and I’m committed to righting those wrongs.”

The Justice Department officially launched the reclassification process on Thursday, following the administration’s unveiling of the proposal at the end of April. This process includes a public comment period and potentially a hearing before a judge. Until it is completed, marijuana remains a controlled substance.

Biden’s initiative to review federal marijuana policy, which began in 2022, marks a significant step towards reform. The move is seen as potentially advantageous for Biden in the upcoming election, especially among younger voters who predominantly support marijuana legalization. According to a Pew Research Center survey, 88% of Americans believe marijuana should be legal for medical or recreational use, while only 11% oppose its legalization entirely.

Cannabis Industry Welcomes Biden’s Move

The cannabis industry, which has grown into a multibillion-dollar sector in the United States, with over half of all states legalizing recreational and medicinal use, has welcomed the proposal.

“This decision is monumental,” the NAACP civil rights organization said on X (formerly Twitter). “Far too many Black Americans have fallen victim to a system designed for their demise.”

Critics of the original federal prohibition of cannabis, first outlawed in 1937, argue it was based on racist ideologies associating the drug with jazz music, the Black community, and Mexican immigrants. The 1970s “War on Drugs” also disproportionately affected minorities before the medical marijuana movement gained traction in the 1990s, leading to the legalization of recreational use in several states starting in 2012.

Economic and Legal Implications

The reclassification proposal is expected to have significant economic and legal implications. Currently, marijuana’s classification as a Schedule I drug complicates access to banking services for cannabis businesses, restricts federal funding for medical research, and hampers interstate commerce and federal regulation.

Reclassifying marijuana to Schedule III would allow companies to deduct operating expenses from their taxes, currently prohibited under federal law. This change is anticipated to foster growth and legitimacy within the industry.

“Thursday’s decision will unlock important research on the medical efficacy of cannabis and bring about real change for legal operators,” said Curaleaf CEO Matt Darin in a statement to AFP.

Following the announcement, industry shares saw an uptick, with Curaleaf gaining 1.07% and Verano Holdings rising by 0.69%.

As the process of reclassification unfolds, marijuana remains a controlled substance at the national level, ensuring that all involved in its trade are still technically in violation of federal law. However, the proposed changes signal a potential shift towards a more rational and research-supported approach to cannabis regulation.

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