The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is planning a major announcement tomorrow that may relax the official U.S. government stance on marijuana. The agency signaled the announcement in an email to reporters including Steven Nelson from U.S. News, who tweeted today that the announcement may be about the rescheduling of marijuana.
Although marijuana has been fully legalized for recreational use in Colorado and Washington state, and legalized for medicinal use in over a dozen others, the federal government still categorizes it as a Schedule 1 Narcotic. That places marijuana among the most heavily restricted substances, alongside heroin, ecstasy, and LSD — drugs that are considered by the government to have no medical value and a high potential for abuse. Marijuana was added to this group in 1970, but drug reform advocates have been calling for its removal to a lesser category (there are 5 categories of controlled substances maintained by the DEA, with 5th being the loosest in terms of regulation) ever since then.
Rescheduling marijuana could make it easier to obtain and prescribe marijuana for medical use around the country, even in states without medical marijuana laws. It would make it much harder for state and local law enforcement to arrest, prosecute, and sentence people for marijuana related crimes. Furthermore, reclassification could open doors for new medical research.
In April the DEA told lawmakers in a letter that the agency planned to release a decision on rescheduling marijuana “in the first half of 2016.” Though it’s now technically passed that time, the decision could finally be revealed in tomorrow morning’s announcement.