Biden administration urges DEA to reclassify marijuana in effort to ease long-standing restrictions

The White House says it wants federal drug officials to consider lifting long-standing restrictions on cannabis. The legal marijuana industry says it’s being held back by regulations that curtail their business but others say lifting those restrictions could increase impaired driving. 

Following a request by President Joe Biden, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a recommendation to the Drug Enforcement Agency that marijuana be reclassified from a Schedule I to a Schedule III drug. 

According to the DEA, Schedule I drugs are defined as those "with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse." 

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, saying that "following the data and science" the department sent the scheduling recommendation for marijuana to the DEA. 

"We’ve worked to ensure that a scientific evaluation be completed and shared expeditiously," Becerra wrote. 

 If approved, marijuana would no longer be listed as a dangerous substance like heroin or LSD and it would reduce or potentially eliminate criminal penalties for possession. 

"The president has always supported the legalization of marijuana for medical he’s been consistent about that along with medical and scientific evidence," White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said

Attorney and cannabis law expert Kevin Goldberg tells FOX 5 that rescheduling cannabis would be a big boost to the legal marketplace, which still operates as a "cash only" business because banks can’t do business with them.

"Right now, about 80% to 90% of the transactions are cash transactions and that creates safety issues for the employees. Delivery drivers have to take the cash they’re delivering to," Goldberg said. 

Senate leaders have hailed it as a first step toward easing federal restrictions on the drug but there are hurdles ahead. 

Rich Leotta, whose son was killed by a drunk driver on a DUI patrol for Montgomery County police, is worried that rescheduling marijuana will put more impaired drivers on the road with no available test to prove impairment

"We do not have the technology to be able to detect impairment from marijuana there is no technology available right now. That’s a serious problem and so now you don’t have enough officers on the road," Leotta said.

Cannabis activists say it’s unfair to single out marijuana. 

"There are a lot of folks working on it so is there a simple blood test like with alcohol? No. But I think that I think that science is really working on it and will catch up," said cannabis legal expert Laura Bianchi.

News of the Biden Administration’s move sent cannabis stocks surging on Wall Street today. The industry has sought the change to allow cannabis businesses to bank more freely and openly.