HHS Recommend Rescheduling Cannabis to Schedule III

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has recommended that cannabis be moved from a Schedule I to Schedule III substance under federal law.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has officially recommended moving cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), Bloomberg reports.

The recommendation comes nearly a year after President Joe Biden (D) tasked his Secretary of Health and Human Services and U.S. Attorney General with reviewing cannabis’ Schedule I status. As part of that process, HHS coordinated with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a scientific review of the plant and its legal status. While historic, the HHS recommendation is non-binding and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will have the final say.

It was not immediately clear when rescheduling — if the DEA were to follow the recommendation — may take place but the process would likely take several months at minimum.

A DEA spokesperson confirmed to Marijuana Moment that the agency had received the recommendation from HHS this week:

"We can confirm DEA received a leter from the Department of Health and Human Services providing its findings and recommendation on marijuana scheduling, pursuant to President Biden's request for a review. As part of this process, HHS conducted a scientific and medical evaluation for consideration by DEA. DEA has the final authority to schedule or reschedule a drug under the Controlled Substances Act. DEA will now initiate its review." - DEA spokesperson, via Marijuana Moment

If rescheduled per the recommendation, cannabis would remain federally illegal but would be significantly easier to access for medicinal and pharmaceutical research purposes. Additionally, the shift to Schedule III would allow for tax break opportunities that are not currently available in state-legal cannabis industries.

Under the CSA, Schedule I substances are categorized as drugs with high levels of abuse potential and no medical value. Schedule III substances, meanwhile, are considered to have “moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence” and are currently allowed for medical use in the U.S.