Marijuana is neither as risky nor as prone to abuse as other tightly controlled substances and has potential medical benefits, and therefore should be removed from the nation’s most restrictive category of drugs, federal scientists have concluded. The recommendations are contained in a 250-page scientific review provided to Matthew Zorn, a Texas lawyer who sued Health and Human Services officials for its release and published it online on Friday night, The New York Times reports. The review by federal scientists found that even though marijuana is the most frequently abused illicit drug, “it does not produce serious outcomes compared to drugs in Schedules I or II.” Marijuana abuse does lead to physical dependence, the analysis noted, and some people develop a psychological dependence. “But the likelihood of serious outcomes is low,” the review concluded.
The records shed light for the first time on the thinking of federal health officials who are pondering a momentous change. Since 1970, marijuana has been considered a Schedule I drug. Schedule I drugs have no medical use and a high potential for abuse, and they carry severe criminal penalties under federal trafficking laws. The documents show that scientists at the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institute on Drug Abuse have recommended that the Drug Enforcement Administration make marijuana a Schedule III drug, alongside the likes of ketamine and testosterone, which are available by prescription.