Biden is right: Marijuana belongs in a different category

Cindy Claveau

Radical Left Degenerate
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2005
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Washington Post (paywall)

The Department of Health and Human Services has recommended removing cannabis from the federal government’s list of drugs that have “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Known as Schedule I, this group includes substances such as heroin and LSD, bad company to which cannabis, whose recreational and medicinal use is being legalized or decriminalized by many states, no longer belongs — if it ever did. This is a wise and overdue change, which, not incidentally, fulfills one of President Biden’s campaign promises.

The HHS recommendation now goes to the final decision-maker, the Drug Enforcement Administration, which has historically opposed rescheduling cannabis (as recently as 2016 DEA said there is “no substantial evidence” to remove marijuana from Schedule I). But now there is an opportunity to recalibrate U.S. drug policy. The question is precisely how.

HHS’s suggestion was to move cannabis to Schedule III, which is for medically useful drugs with a middle-range potential for abuse; the current list includes ketamine and testosterone. Putting cannabis in that category is a defensible judgment — albeit one whose detailed rationale HHS has not yet publicly described. (News of its recommendation letter to DEA leaked; the agency then confirmed it.) Much has changed since the last formal review in 2016. There is evidence showing cannabis is effective at treating chronic pain, according to a 2017 report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Millions use it for that purpose, often with a doctor’s recommendation in the 38 states where medical marijuana is legal. The National Academies also reported that certain orally administered cannabis derivatives can help multiple sclerosis and cancer patients. A move to Schedule III would allow even more research to occur.