DOJ moves to reclassify marijuana. What happens next?

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WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – President Joe Biden called a new move to reclassify cannabis “monumental,” Thursday, but the proposal is facing some pushback.

The Justice Department’s proposed rule would move marijuana from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule III drug, acknowledging a lower potential for abuse. The White House says it opens the door to studying its medical uses.

“It will remove burdensome long-standing barriers to critical research,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

Marijuana would still be a controlled substance under the rule, and not legal recreationally.

Starting next week, the public has 60 days to comment on the proposal. After that, the administration will issue a final rule. If it moves to officially reschedule the drug, one group says it may pursue legal action.

“We’re looking at all options,” Smart Approaches to Marijuana President Kevin Sabet said.

Sabet says the move is politically motivated and anti-science.

“Today’s pot is not your Woodstock weed, it’s much more harmful than it used to be,” Sabet said.

Sabet also opposes the tax breaks cannabis businesses would get because of rescheduling marijuana, saying the move has the potential to turn the marijuana industry into “Big Tobacco.”

“I wouldn’t want to give the pot industry another sort of free pass,” Sabet said.

But other groups, like the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML, say this is a good first step.

“Symbolically, it’s very significant. It represents potentially the first significant change in federal marijuana policy in five decades,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said.

But Armentano says the change does not go far enough, and he’d like to see marijuana removed from the Controlled Substances Act entirely.

“Doesn’t get at the heart of the real issue that we’re facing, and that’s the reality, that the majority of states have broken away from federal marijuana policy.”

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