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What it means if marijuana shifts from a schedule 1 to a schedule 3 drug

Gavel, court hammer. Free public domain CC0 photo. More: View public domain image source here
Gavel, court hammer. Free public domain CC0 photo. More: View public domain image source here

The Department of Justice announced that the next step for rescheduling marijuana has taken place. Marijuana has historically been classified as a Schedule 1 drug—those with no medical use and a high potential for abuse. The Biden administration is working to move marijuana to a Schedule 3 drug, those that have a medical use and moderate to low potential for abuse. WGCU's Cary Barbor spoke to Dr. Rahul Gupta, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, to get more detail on this change.

“Schedule one, where marijuana currently resides, is one that is defined by having no medical benefit, and high risk for addiction. It is in the company of drugs like heroin, LSD and ecstasy,” said Dr. Gupta. “It's been quite a bit of science that has developed over the last few years, certainly since more than a half century ago when those placements happened, that show us that this may not be where it belongs. So the move to schedule three, where there are recognizable medical benefits to a substance, is one that is a recommendation based on science and evidence. It does make sense to make sure that we're pursuing science and evidence when it comes to medications and use those medications for Americans with chronic illnesses, chronic pain, diseases like cancer. It also allows us to expand on the research and development both for users, as well as for new drugs potential in the future for other ailments. And then finally, too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana over the past more than a half century. And that's why, back in 2022, President Biden had requested that Department of Justice and Health and Human Services services conduct this review.”

Dr. Gupta went on to explain that President Biden has pardoned some people who were in prison on federal marijuana-related charges. A pardon for state charges locally would only be possible if Florida changes its laws.

If marijuana is moved from Schedule 1 to Schedule 3, it can be prescribed by a licensed provider.

“Any drug that is between Schedule 2 and schedule 5 can be prescribed when appropriate by a licensed provider who has a DEA registration, like I do. For a full schedule 1, there is no approved medical use. So this change would allow providers, clinicians across the country to be able to prescribe marijuana as a schedule 3 drug,” said Dr. Gupta.

Gupta goes on to say that research has shown that there are proper medical uses of marijuana.

“One of the things that we have to focus is the science. But today, the science takes us in a direction that there are some medical uses of marijuana. We must allow Americans to take advantage of that, for example, those who are suffering from chronic pain, other chronic illnesses, cancer, this may be something of a better option for them,” he said. “At the same time, we must understand that for children whose brains are still developing, up to the age of 22 to 25, it's important that any illicit substance, whether it be marijuana or others, not interfere in the development of the brain. So prevention for young people of any drugs is still important and key. But at the same time, allowing us to be able to have appropriate science-based categorization of drugs that can help Americans is important. Of course, the increasing concentrations of THC and others are something that concerns all of us. And one way to address that is by having it as Schedule 3.”

Categorizing marijuana as a Schedule 3 drug, he says, will allow for more research.

A 60-day public comment period will begin soon, after which the Department of Justice will make a final scheduling determination.

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