US plans to reclassify cannabis as less dangerous drug

The US is planning to reclassify cannabis as a less dangerous drug in an historic shift that could have a significant impact across the country.

The Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) proposal would recognise the drug's medical properties and acknowledge it has less potential for abuse than other dangerous substances.

However the proposal, which still must be reviewed by the White House, would not legalise cannabis outright for recreational use.

Marijuana is currently classified in the US as a "schedule one" substance, alongside heroin and LSD, which is reserved for drugs with a high potential for abuse.

The US Department of Justice, which oversees the DEA, recommended cannabis be switched to "schedule three", meaning it has a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence, and putting the drug in the same bracket as ketamine and some anabolic steroids.

The move comes after US President Joe Biden called for a review of the federal marijuana law in October 2022 and announced a pardon for thousands of Americans convicted of possessing cannabis.

In December, Mr Biden said: "Criminal records for marijuana use and possession have imposed needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities.

"Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana. It's time that we right these wrongs."

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Jack Riley, a former deputy administrator of the DEA, said he had concerns about the proposed change, saying marijuana remains a possible "gateway drug".

According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, some research has shown that young people who use cannabis have an increased risk of psychosis.

Using cannabis can also increase the risk of other mental health problems such as depression and suicidal feelings, it adds.

The discrepancy between federal and state cannabis laws in the US is evident, as 38 states have already legalised medical marijuana, with 24 approving its recreational use.