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Federal Struggle in Maintaining Cannabis as a Top-Tier Dangerous Substance Under Drug Policy

The United States government is grappling with the challenge of maintaining cannabis as a highly dangerous substance under the nation's drug policy, especially as it is currently classified alongside drugs like heroin and LSD. This longstanding stance is facing potential alteration as the federal perspective on cannabis shifts.

Long adhering to a strict "no" policy towards cannabis, influenced by historical figures like Nancy Reagan, the federal government is now on the verge of a significant policy change. The recent statement from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) suggests a possible reclassification of cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), indicating a dramatic shift in U.S. drug policy.

Since 1970, cannabis has been categorized in Schedule I of the CSA, equating it with substances like heroin and LSD, considered to have no accepted medical use and a high abuse potential. However, reclassifying cannabis to Schedule III would acknowledge its medical viability and lower abuse potential, contradicting its current definition.

The HHS statement, advocating for a federal reclassification, suggests that cannabis "fulfills the criteria for control in Schedule III." This follows a review and concurrence from both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Anne Milgram, the administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), emphasized this recommendation in a recent document.

Transitioning cannabis to Schedule III would not equate to legalization but would represent a step towards decriminalization at the federal level, allowing for regulated control. In this new category, cannabis would be regulated similarly to substances like anabolic steroids or testosterone, recognized for medical use and possessing moderate-to-low abuse risk, contrasting its current classification as a high-risk, no-benefit substance.

The decision to reclassify cannabis lies either with the DEA or Congress. Until then, this recommendation from the HHS marks a significant, unprecedented call for change in federal cannabis policy in recent decades.

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