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Biden plans to reschedule cannabis, easing restrictions

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President Joe Biden’s administration plans to ease federal restrictions on cannabis by reclassifying the drug for the first time in half a century.

The Biden administration plans to announce an interim rule soon reclassifying the drug for the first time since the Controlled Substances Act was enacted more than 50 years ago, according to media reports confirmed by NBC News.

For decades, cannabis has been classified as a Schedule I drug, a class defined as drugs with no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Other Schedule 1 drugs include heroin, LSD, ecstasy and methaqualone, the hypnotic sedative sold under the brand name Quaalude before it was discontinued in the 1980s.

Under the plan, cannabis would be reclassified as a Schedule III drug, defined as drugs with a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence. Other Schedule III drugs include products containing less than 90 milligrams of codeine per dosage unit, ketamine, anabolic steroids and testosterone.

The election-year move comes after Biden has repeatedly promised to reschedule cannabis since 2019.

During his State of the Union address earlier this year, Biden said he would be “directing my Cabinet to review the federal classification of marijuana, and expunging thousands of convictions for mere possession, because no one should be jailed for using or possessing marijuana.”

Rescheduling the drug could open the door to pharmaceutical company investment in the $34 billion cannabis industry in states where it is legal.

Matthew Schweich, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, called it a “modest step.”

“This is a positive step forward for federal cannabis policy, however it is a rather modest step given the strong support among American voters for comprehensive cannabis reform,” he said in a statement. “It is important to acknowledge that this rescheduling would not affect the criminalization of medical cannabis patients and cannabis consumers under state laws – so we must continue the work of enacting sensible and fair cannabis legalization and medical cannabis laws through state legislatures and ballot initiatives.”

Reclassifying the drug could also ease tax burdens for the companies that sell it, said David Goubert, president and CEO of AYR Wellness, a public company based in Florida.

“This represents the most significant step towards federal cannabis reform in U.S. history and will provide much needed relief to operators of all shapes and sizes, allowing us fair tax treatment by eliminating 280E, in addition to allowing for additional research into the medical efficacy of cannabis,” he said in a statement. “AYR Wellness, along with many of its peers, continues to advocate for the full de-scheduling of cannabis, and feel today’s news represents positive progress towards that eventual outcome.”