Justice Dept. Plans to Recommend Easing Restrictions on Marijuana

Justice Dept. Plans to Recommend Easing Restrictions on Marijuana

The Justice Department plans to forward a recommendation for easing restrictions on marijuana to the White House in what could amount to a major change in federal policy, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Even though the move, which if approved would kick off a lengthy rule-making process, does not end the criminalization of the drug, it would be a significant shift in how the government views the safety and use of marijuana for medical purposes.

It could also lead to the softening of other laws and regulations that account for the use or possession of cannabis, including sentencing guidelines, banking and access to public housing.

One person familiar with the recommendation, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland would tell the White House Office of Management and Budget on Tuesday that the government should change the drug’s classification.

For more than half a century, marijuana has been considered a so-called Schedule I drug, classified on the same level as highly addictive substances like heroin that the Drug Enforcement Administration describes as having no currently accepted medical use.

Last year, the Health and Human Services Department recommended to the D.E.A. that marijuana should be a Schedule III drug, which would put it alongside less addictive substances like Tylenol with codeine, ketamine and testosterone, meaning that it would be subject to fewer restrictions on production and research, and that it could be taken with a prescription.

The Associated Press earlier reported the decision.

Ashley Southall and Andrew Jacobs contributed reporting from New York.

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