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Justice Dept. moves to 'reclassify' weed. What does that mean for Massachusetts?
Justice Dept. moves to 'reclassify' weed. What does that mean for Massachusetts?
Justice Dept. moves to 'reclassify' weed. What does that mean for Massachusetts?

Published on: 05/23/2024

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Biden administration announces historic marijuana rescheduling
President Joe Biden has announced that his administration is taking a "major step" to reclassify marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III drug.

The U.S. Department of Justice took recent measures which could potentially change the way the federal government treats marijuana, a move that is supported by President Joe Biden.

Right now, while states can legalize marijuana, the federal government still recognizes the drug as illegal, which causes some discrepancies between the levels of government.

The president said the move is in line with his mission of "reversing longstanding inequities" regarding the criminalization of marijuana, calling the move "monumental," in an X, formerly known as Twitter, video.

"Look folks, no one should be in jail merely for using or possessing marijuana," the president said in his video statement.

So what does this all mean? Will anything change if marijuana is reclassified? Here's what to know.

The Department of Justice proposed a change seeking to move marijuana from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule III drug under the country's Controlled Substances Act. This change would classify marijuana in the same category as drugs like Tylenol with codeine, ketamine, buprenorphine and anabolic steroids, according to the department.

Basically, if marijuana came off the Schedule I status, it would be treated more leniently by federal law enforcement officials.

"The rescheduling of a controlled substance follows a formal rulemaking procedure that requires notice to the public, and an opportunity for comment and an administrative hearing," the U.S. Department of Justice stated. "This proposal starts the process, where the Drug Enforcement Administration will gather and consider information and views submitted by the public, in order to make a determination about the appropriate schedule. During that process, and until a final rule is published, marijuana remains a schedule I controlled substance."

Marijuana is currently classified as a Schedule I drug, a category which also includes drugs like heroin, LSD, methamphetamine (ecstasy) and peyote. This drugs are illegal federally, with no medical uses, and are considered highly likely to be abused.

Marijuana is considered by many to be much less powerful than the other drugs in this category.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, "Marijuana has been classified as a schedule I drug since Congress enacted the (Controlled Substances Act) in 1970."

Schedule III drugs, to which marijuana could be re-classified, as defined by the DEA, are "drugs with a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence." If pot does become a Schedule III drug, it would be in company with testosterone and Tylenol (which contains less than 90 milligrams of codeine), according to the DEA.

The cannabis industry is Massachusetts is already big business. Since operations began in 2018, the industry has already cleared $6 billion in gross revenues, according to testimony at the State of Cannabis event last month.

If the move is approved, which will be a lengthy process, the substance would still be regulated as it does not equate to a legalization of marijuana.

But it would transform the industry.

"The biggest change that it's going to be is it going to allow a lot more medical research to happen on cannabis," Dr. Ali Raja, of Mass. General Hospital, told WCVB this month, noting that not a lot of research can be done on Schedule I drugs.

The change would also open doors for marijuana businesses in Massachusetts. Because of the federal regulations, state-licensed cannabis businesses currently can't access federal tax breaks, and some are taxed at rates as high at 70%, according to industry groups. If the drug was rescheduled, it could reduce tax burdens, according to Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.

It would also give the companies federal protection in bankruptcy proceedings, according to a post on the Boston Bar Association's website.

Thirty-eight states in the country have legalized medical marijuana while 24 have approved it for recreational use, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Massachusetts is one of the states where it has been approved for both medical and recreational use.

The U.S Justice Department explained that on Oct. 6, 2022, President Joe Biden "asked the Attorney General and the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to launch a scientific review of how marijuana is scheduled under federal law."

USA Today contributed to this report.

News Source : https://www.telegram.com/story/news/regional/2024/05/23/proposed-weed-reclassification-how-will-it-affect-industry-users-marijuana-cannabis-dispensaries/73799970007/

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