Biden administration formally proposes moving marijuana to Schedule 3

(This story was last updated at 6:59 p.m. ET Thursday.)

The U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday took the latest step toward reclassifying marijuana as a less dangerous drug under federal law.

Attorney General Merrick Garland submitted a notice of proposed rulemaking to move marijuana from Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act to Schedule 3, a move that could collectively save cannabis operators billions of dollars.

And in a sign of how seriously the White House is taking marijuana policy reform, including rescheduling the drug under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), it was President Joe Biden who personally announced the development in a video posted to social media.

“This is monumental,” the president said in a video posted to X, formerly known as Twitter, shortly after 1 p.m. ET.

“Today, my administration took a major step to reclassify marijuana from a Schedule 1 drug to a Schedule 3 drug.”

The Justice Department followed up Biden’s announcement with one of its own, explaining that “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,” the agency added in a news release.

Shortly before the president’s announcement, Politico reported that the Justice Department would issue a proposed rule moving marijuana to a “less restrictive category.”

That would mean the most revolutionary shift in federal marijuana policy since the Nixon administration’s war on drugs is moving along.

However, it’s not quite yet in effect.

Biden launched the rescheduling process in October 2022 by issuing an executive order directing cabinet-level agencies to “expeditiously review” the status of marijuana under federal law.

Since 1970, marijuana has been classified under the CSA as Schedule 1, a designation reserved for drugs with no medical value and a high potential for abuse.

But last August, heeding Biden’s executive order and after considering data from state-regulated cannabis programs, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommended marijuana be moved to Schedule 3, a category for drugs with medical application but some abuse potential.

That recommendation went to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Then, on April 30, the Associated Press was the first to report that the DEA had signed off on the recommendation.

That meant passing the recommendation back to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget.

That agency was tasked with reviewing the proposal before returning rescheduling back to the Justice Department.

The DOJ is now supposed to publish a proposed change to federal law in the Federal Register.

That move will be followed by a public-comment period.

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“This is a huge victory for everyone who has worked to normalize federal cannabis policy and begins the process of federal support for state cannabis markets,” said Bryan Barash, a vice president at cannabis point-of-sale software provider Dutchie.

“Most importantly, for the first time the federal government recognizes the overwhelming evidence of the clear medical benefits of cannabis,” added Barash, also a co-chair for the Coalition for Cannabis Scheduling Reform, a group of cannabis companies focused on Washington, D.C., policy advocacy.

“With the submission of the proposed rule today, the formal administrative process to remove cannabis from the strictest of classifications – where it never belonged – we are moving closer to seeing the most monumental cannabis reform in half a century come to fruition,” said Saphira Galoob, executive director of the National Cannabis Roundtable, a D.C.-based industry lobbying group.

“Just as today’s news is another step forward in the ongoing administrative process that began with the October 2022 directive by President Biden, rescheduling is also a step toward larger federal cannabis reforms,” she added.

Chris Roberts can be reached at