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US Justice Department Eases Marijuana Use Penalties

Photo : AP

The US Justice Department has made a significant decision regarding the federal classification of marijuana, signaling a notable shift in cannabis policy nationwide. In a move aimed at reducing the severity of penalties associated with marijuana use, Attorney General Merrick Garland recommended reclassifying the drug from schedule one to schedule three. This change, if finalized, would mark a departure from the current classification, which places marijuana in the same category as highly addictive substances like heroin.

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The proposal to reclassify marijuana comes as a response to growing public support for legalization and acknowledgment of the disparities in enforcement and impact on communities of color. Currently, marijuana is legal in some form in nearly 40 states, highlighting the widening gap between state and federal laws on cannabis.

President Joe Biden, who initiated a review of marijuana's classification in 2022, has faced pressure from within his political base to address cannabis policy reform. By considering this reclassification, the administration aims to pave the way for increased research, medical use, and reduced criminal penalties associated with marijuana.

The potential reclassification has sparked optimism among investors, leading to a surge in shares of cannabis companies such as Tilray, Trulieve Cannabis Corp, and Green Thumb Industries. If marijuana is moved to schedule three, it could facilitate more medical research, lighter criminal penalties, and increased private investment in the cannabis sector.

While the proposed change has garnered support from advocates of marijuana legalization and medical research, it has also faced opposition. Groups like Smart Approaches to Marijuana have expressed concerns about the potential normalization and commercialization of marijuana, warning of the impact on public health and safety.

Additionally, questions have been raised about the potential impact on youth, as research has shown links between marijuana use during adolescence and adverse outcomes such as impaired brain development and mental health disorders. However, studies have also indicated that legalization may not necessarily lead to increased use among young teens.

For cannabis businesses, the reclassification could bring significant benefits, including eligibility for listing on major stock exchanges, access to more generous tax deductions, and fewer restrictions from banks. This would address longstanding challenges faced by cannabis companies due to federal prohibition, such as limited banking services and reliance on cash transactions.

Overall, the potential reclassification of marijuana represents a significant step in reshaping cannabis policy in the United States, with far-reaching implications for legalization, public health, and the economy.

May 1, 2024 2:59 p.m. 3789

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