DEA to Reclassify Marijuana to a Less Severe Drug Category

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has proposed reclassifying marijuana as a less dangerous drug in a move that could have a broad impact on US drug policy while also providing a boost to President Biden in an election year.

The DEA proposal, which must first be reviewed by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), would not federally legalize the recreational use of cannabis, which could only be done through Congress. Instead, it would formally acknowledge the medical uses of cannabis while recognizing that marijuana does not have the same potential for abuse as other more dangerous narcotics.

Under the process, if the OMB signs off on the proposal, the DEA would begin receiving public comment on the plan, which would remove marijuana from the Schedule I classification, which also includes LSD and heroin, to the less dangerous Schedule III, the classification that includes anabolic steroids and ketamine.

The DEA’s proposal followed a recommendation from the Department of Health and Human Services in August 2023.

Following the public comment period, the DEA proposal would then be reviewed by an administrative judge before the final rule is published.

Justice Department Director of Public Affairs Xochitl Hinojosa confirmed in a statement that Attorney General Merrick Garland had circulated a proposal to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule III drug.

The DEA’s move comes after President Biden called for a review of federal law on marijuana possession in December. The president argued that having a criminal record for marijuana possession or use “imposed needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities.”

The DEA’s proposal coming during an election year would also likely boost Joe Biden’s support among younger voters who have soured on the president in recent months.

The Biden White House has taken several actions to try and salvage his plummeting support among younger votes who played such a decisive role in helping Biden win in 2020, most notably, the president’s efforts to find ways to work around the Supreme Court blocking his planned student debt bailout.