DOJ Submits Proposal to Reclassify Marijuana

President Biden calls it a ‘major’ move
Marijuana plant
Photograph: Shutterstock

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on Thursday said Attorney General Merrick Garland has submitted to the Federal Register a notice of proposed rulemaking initiating a formal rulemaking process to consider moving marijuana from a schedule I to schedule III drug under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

President Joe Biden took to his official social media account on X with a video announcing the “major” move. Biden said “too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana.” He added that the DOJ’s proposal is the “next step to reclassify marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule III drug under federal law.

On Jan. 12, officials from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released the full text of the HHS letter to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recommending that marijuana be reclassified from Schedule I to Schedule III.

After receiving HHS’s recommendations, Garland sought the legal advice of the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) on questions relevant to this rulemaking. Considering HHS’s medical and scientific determinations, and OLC’s legal advice, Garland exercised his authority under the law to initiate the rulemaking process to transfer marijuana to schedule III, the DOJ said.

In 2022, Biden asked the Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra and Garland to initiate the administrative process to review how marijuana is scheduled under federal law.

Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act in 1970, which lists marijuana as a Schedule I drug, which doesn’t allow it to be considered legitimate or prescribed by a doctor for medical use.

There is now a 60-day comment period, which permits the public to submit remarks regarding the rescheduling proposal before it is finalized by the DEA, which has the final decision in the rulemaking process.

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