Marijuana restrictions may be eased in the near future. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) asked the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to be reclassified from a Schedule I drug to a lower-risk Schedule III. This would make marijuana, in legal terms, less harmful than cocaine or heroin.
The proposal comes after the Biden administration announced in October 2022 that it was pardoning all previous federal marijuana possession offenses. That's when he also ordered HHS to review the federal classification of marijuana. Almost a year later, the health agency has done so, as HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra revealed:
We’ve worked to ensure that a scientific evaluation be completed and shared expeditiously. pic.twitter.com/p84x8p07sP
— Secretary Xavier Becerra (@SecBecerra) August 30, 2023
The Hill reported that marijuana would be classified as a Schedule III controlled substance. Until now it was listed as a Schedule I drug, which, according to the DEA, is reserved for drugs that do not have "currently accepted medical use in treatment" in the country since "there is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision." and "has a high potential for abuse."
The DEA explains that Schedule III controlled substances have "a potential of abuse less than the drugs or other substances in Schedules I and II" since "abuse of the drug or other substance may lead to moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence."
Marijuana users have higher levels of lead and cadmium in their blood
As the DEA continues to debate whether to downgrade marijuana, following HHS advice, a study revealed that people who use this drug have higher levels of metals in their blood and urine compared to people who do not consume it.
The study, published in the journal Environmental Heart Perspectives, found that marijuana users had higher blood lead levels than those who did not use. This was stated in a press release by author Katlyn McCgraw, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences of Colombia Public Health:
Because the cannabis plant is a known scavenger of metals, we had hypothesized that individuals who use marijuana will have higher metal biomarker levels compared to those who do not use. Our results therefore indicate marijuana is a source of cadmium and lead exposure.