Proposal to reschedule marijuana could bring changes

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A new proposal to reclassify marijuana could open more doors to new medical treatments.

MORE: Western NC tribe could legalize marijuana on tribal lands

Currently, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I substance—that’s the same category as heroin and LSD.

The Justice Department moved to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule III substance, similar to ketamine and testosterone.

Critics of the change argue that the rescheduling is not needed and could lead to harmful side effects down the road. The movement’s supporters say it could be a historic shift.

Natacha Andrews is the Executive Director of the National Association of Black Cannabis Lawyers and believes the change will begin to limit the negative stereotypes surrounding marijuana.

“This acts as a confirmation of the fact that there is medicinal value here and that it doesn’t have that high a propensity for addiction and misuse,” she said.

Andrews believes the rescheduling will have an even more positive effect on the healthcare industry and its patients.

“It also allows patients who live in one of the 12 states where cannabis is not currently legal at all an opportunity—potentially—to have access to medical care that they could not before, but it does nothing to decriminalize,” Andrews said.

The proposal comes just months after President Joe Biden moved to pardon thousands of people convicted on federal simple marijuana charges.

Dr. Rahul Gupta, with the Office of National Drug Control Policy, says Biden is trying to get state governors to take similar action.

“It lifts for people barriers to housing, barriers to employment, small business loans, and so much for thousands of Americans. And it’s so important because it allows people to get their lives back,” Gupta said.

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Andrews thinks reactions across the Carolinas will be different considering both medical and recreational cannabis are still illegal.

“There’s going to be a lot of pushback from North Carolina,” she said. “There are people who don’t believe that this is medicine.”

This proposal does not make marijuana legal in the United States, but it does kick off a 60-day public comment period.

After that, the rescheduling will be presented to an administrative judge.

In April, North Carolina’s first medical marijuana dispensary opened.

The Cherokee Nation in western NC became the first place in the state to legally buy the drug.

Visitors have to be 21 years old and have a medical card.

Officials with the tribe say they have already started to look into expanding to recreational sales.

(WATCH BELOW: First NC medical marijuana dispensary opens doors)