Five days after U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) and other members of Congress sent a letter to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) urging it to reclassify marijuana as a less dangerous drug, the Biden administration proposed rescheduling cannabis from a Schedule I to Schedule III classification, making marijuana research, business, and other activities much easier. 

“I am thrilled by the Biden administration’s decision to begin the process of finally rescheduling cannabis, following the lead of Colorado and 37 other states that have already legalized it for medical or adult use, correcting decades of outdated federal policy,” said Gov. Jared Polis (D-CO). “This action is good for Colorado businesses and our economy, it will improve public safety, and will support a more just and equitable system for all. We look forward to when Colorado businesses will continue to safely fulfill the consumer demand without facing additional safety challenges and unnecessary financial burden that 280E tax provisions created.” 

In his April 25 letter, Hickenlooper stated that marijuana’s previous classification as Schedule I had severe penalties with businesses and their consumers on “criminal records, immigration statuses, employment, taxation, health care, public housing, social services, and more.” The letter to the DEA called out its failed history of 50 years of “racially discriminatory marijuana policy.”

“It is time for the DEA to make good on the president’s commitments,” said Hickenlooper in a press release on April 25. 

Chuck Smith, president of the board of directors for Colorado Leads, an organization of business leaders who are committed to the regulation of cannabis said in a news release: “This is a truly historic development in federal cannabis policy that will have significant impacts on the legal marijuana industry in Colorado and throughout the nation. This is by no means the end of the line for federal reform, and we will continue to support efforts to treat it more like alcohol, which is in line with the views of most Colorado voters.”

Today’s actions pave the way for businesses to research marijuana in a controlled manner. Although marijuana has been a divisive issue among policymakers, according to the Pew Research Center “most Americans favor legalizing marijuana for medical, recreational use.”

DEA’s proposal will be subject to public comment and rulemaking before it takes effect. Congress has the power to overturn the final decision, which is made by the Office of Management and Budget.