The U.S. Classifies Marijuana as a Schedule III Drug: Understanding the Implications

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TL/DR –

The Biden administration has proposed downgrading marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III, acknowledging its medicinal value and lower potential for abuse. The proposed rule is now subject to a 60-day comment period before a lengthy approval process. This move signifies a significant shift in how the federal government views marijuana but does not legalize the drug.


The Biden administration’s marijuana proposal

The Biden administration plans to move marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III, downgrading it from the most restrictive category of drugs. The proposed rule, recently submitted to the Federal Register, will undergo a 60-day comment period before initiating the approval process.

This recategorization signifies a significant shift in the federal government’s view on marijuana, acknowledging its medicinal value and lower potential for abuse. Critics have long opposed its Schedule I classification, reserved for the most dangerous and habit-forming substances.

Controlled substances and their categories

Controlled substances’ categories influence production amounts, access, research, and legal outcomes. Some argue that cigarettes and alcohol, not included in any of the five controlled substance categories, should be classified as Schedule I due to their high risk of abuse and addiction.

The President’s take on the proposal

President Biden applauded this step in a video, calling it “monumental.” He acknowledged the numerous lives disrupted due to the failed approach to marijuana and pledged to correct these wrongs.

A look at drug schedules

Here’s a rundown of the five drug designations, including a few of the substances in each:

Schedule I

Drugs like heroin, L.S.D., ecstasy, magic mushrooms, and marijuana (currently), with no accepted medical use and a high risk for abuse, fall under this category.

Schedule II

This category includes substances with some medical value but a high risk for abuse, such as cocaine, methamphetamine, and painkillers like Vicodin, OxyContin, and fentanyl. Capitol Hill lawmakers have sought to push fentanyl into a stricter classification because of its increasing death toll. However, this could negatively impact surgery patients and fail to address the illegal production of fentanyl.

Schedule III

Drugs like Tylenol with codeine, ketamine, anabolic steroids, testosterone, and soon, marijuana are considered to have a low to moderate abuse risk. Drugs under this classification are not subject to the federal income tax rule impeding producers in states where marijuana is legal. By law, the top two categories’ drug producers can’t claim tax exemptions for business expenses.

Schedule IV and V

Schedule IV includes drugs like Xanax, Valium and Ambien, considered to have a low addiction risk and requiring a prescription. Schedule V drugs, considered the lowest risk, include medication for cough, diarrhea and epilepsy, like Lomotil, Motofen, Parepectolin, and Lyrica.

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