Researchers from the US Food and Drug Administration are calling for the reclassification of marijuana as a Schedule III substance, highlighting its lower potential for abuse compared to substances currently listed under Schedules I and II.
Currently classified as Schedule I, alongside highly dangerous controlled substances like heroin and LSD, marijuana’s reclassification is supported by scientific evidence endorsing its medical use.
In 2022, President Joe Biden initiated a review of marijuana’s federal scheduling, prompting US Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to call for its reclassification in a letter to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Adm. Rachel Levine supported this move, suggesting a placement under Schedule III, which includes drugs with “moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence,” such as ketamine and Tylenol with codeine.
The authors of the report wrote: “The marijuana withdrawal syndrome appears to be relatively mild compared to the withdrawal syndrome associated with alcohol, which can include more serious symptoms such as agitation, paranoia, seizures, and even death.”
FDA documents reflect the Health and Human Services’ evaluation of scientific and medical evidence supporting marijuana’s reclassification. The FDA suggests rescheduling due to marijuana’s lower abuse potential, accepted medical use in the US, and a low to moderate risk of physical dependence.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse concurs with the FDA’s recommendation, noting that despite the prevalence of nonmedical marijuana use in the US, serious outcomes are less frequent compared to substances like heroin and cocaine.
The researchers note some scientific support for therapeutic uses like treating anorexia, pain, and chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. However, they add that safety and effectiveness for specific health conditions have not been definitively established.
Missouri, a traditionally conservative state, recently legalized recreational cannabis, triggering an economic upswing. Cannabis sales in February reached $103 million, compared to $37.2 million the previous month, showcasing the industry’s rapid growth.