U.S. Aims To Ease Restrictions On Marijuana Use By Reclassifying The Drug

The White House has taken the initial steps to ease federal restrictions on cannabis, with sources claiming Attorney General Merrick Garland submitted the initial proposal to the White House Office of Management and Budget on Tuesday.

The proposal aims to reschedule marijuana from a Schedule I substance to a Schedule III substance. This would be the first time the drug has been rescheduled since the Controlled Substances Act was put in place over 50 years ago.

Before being enacted, the plan will have to go through a lengthy, multi-level approval process, starting with the Department of Health and Human Services submitting their opinion that the drug should be rescheduled to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). If approved, the plan will be published in the Federal Register, where it will stay for a 60-day public comment period. Finally, it will be reviewed by a judge who can then decide to approve it or hold a hearing.

What Is The Importance Of Rescheduling?

The Controlled Substances Act categorizes drugs in five scheduling categories, with Schedule I having the most restrictions and Schedule V having the least. The DEA and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) evaluate and categorize the drugs based on three factors: potential for abuse, known and accepted medical use, and potential for addiction.

Since the act was enacted in 1971, marijuana has been a Schedule I substance, along with other drugs like heroin and LSD. Pro-cannabis activists have long claimed that this categorization is ill-fitting and does not recognize potential benefits of the drug.

The rescheduling of marijuana is significant, as it means the US government is acknowledging the potential medical benefits, such has improved sleep and reduced anxiety for some. This acknowledgement comes with the ability and funds needed to properly study and test these claims.

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What Do Critics Say?

Critics highlight that Schedule III drugs, like anabolic steroids and ketamine, still have a risk for abuse and addiction, regardless of medical benefits. They point to the information provided by the National Institute on Drugs that show negative effects of marijuana use, such as impaired memory, difficulty with problem solving, and adverse effects on brain development.

President and CEO of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, Kevin Sabet, warns that marijuana is still a gateway drug, and that this proposal could lead to a generation of adolescents who will be “bombarded with attractive advertising.” He claims that the proposal is more ill-timed than ever, referring to the super-strength, synthetic cannabinoids that are being created and used today, stating “In reality, today’s highly potent, super strength marijuana is more addictive and linked with psychosis and other mental illnesses, IQ loss and other problems.”

Critics also highlight the monetary benefits to be had, such as tax breaks for marijuana business owners and the potential for big-pharma to get involved in the creation and distribution of cannabis products. They worry that this could be driving force for the bill, with America’s youth paying the true cost.

Changes On The Horizon

While the proposal still has a long road ahead of it, it is a symbol of changing attitudes towards marijuana use in the US. Still, it’s important to keep in mind that misuse of any substance can lead to negative, long-term effects.

If you are struggling with substance abuse, contact a treatment provider today. They can help you explore your treatment options and take the first step towards recovery.

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Jessica Sherer

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  • Jessica Sherer earned her B.A. in English from Ashford University and has over eight years of copyediting experience in healthcare education. Dedicated to providing clear and useful information, she hopes her work will help to support those affected by addiction.

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