Should Marijuana Be Reclassified As a Drug Generally Available by Prescription (Schedule II or III)?


General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

[Editor's Note: Read our five-page pro and con document titled "Should marijuana be rescheduled?" Although normally ProCon.org only quotes third party sources directly, we used our own words for brevity in this document. This paper was written in July 2007, updated in Oct. 2009, and partially updated on May 4, 2012 with new information for the American Medical Association, Cleveland Clinic, and Natl. MS Society.]


The 1970 US Controlled Substances Act (Title 21 United States Code, Subchapter I, Part B Section 812) describes Schedules I (including marijuana), II, and III as indicated below. These definitions remain current as of Oct. 30, 2009:

1. Schedule I

  1. The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse.
  2. The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.
  3. There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.

2. Schedule II

  1. The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse.
  2. The drug or other substance has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States or a currently accepted medical use with severe restrictions.
  3. Abuse of the drug or other substances may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.

3. Schedule III

  1. The drug or other substance has a potential for abuse less than the drugs or other substances in schedules I and II.
  2. The drug or other substance has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.
  3. Abuse of the drug or other substance may lead to moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence.

1970 - US Code Title 21 Section 812 (32 KB)  

Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana advocacy group, wrote in an article titled "Campaign to Reclassify Marijuana" on its website (accessed Oct. 27, 2006):

"Four entities can independently change the classification of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act: the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Congress, and the Executive Branch."

Oct. 27, 2006 - Americans for Safe Access (ASA) 



PRO (yes)

Carl Olsen, marijuana activist, wrote the following in his May 12, 2008 "Petition by Carl Olsen for the Rescheduling of Marijuana," (20 KB) submitted to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to reschedule marijuana and remove it from the list of Schedule I drugs:

"Marijuana... is incorrectly classified... because it no longer fits the criteria for inclusion in Schedule I...

Because marijuana now has currently accepted medical use in 12 states, because federal law defines accepted medical use to be whatever the states say it is, and because the DEA's own Administrative Law Judge [Francis Young] has already determined that marijuana is safe for use under medical supervision, the federal definition for a schedule I controlled substance... no longer applies to marijuana and federal law must be amended to reflect these changes."

[Editor's Note: Olsen's petition was denied on Dec. 19, 2008 by DEA Deputy Administrator Michele Leonhart. Olsen said that he will appeal the denial.]

May 12, 2008 - Carl Olsen 



The American College of Physicians (ACP) wrote in its Feb. 15, 2008 position paper "Supporting Research into the Therapeutic Role of Marijuana"

"ACP urges review of marijuana's status as a schedule I controlled substance and its reclassification into a more appropriate schedule, given the scientific evidence regarding marijuana's safety and efficacy in some clinical conditions…Given marijuana's proven efficacy at treating certain symptoms and its relatively low toxicity, reclassification would reduce barriers to research and increase availability of cannabinoid drugs to patients who have failed to respond to other treatments."

Feb. 18, 2008 - American College of Physicians (ACP) 



Francis Young, Former Chief Administrative Law Judge for the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), stated in his Sep. 6, 1988 ruling in a petition to reschedule marijuana:

"The evidence in this record clearly shows that marijuana has been accepted as capable of relieving the distress of great numbers of very ill people, and doing so with safety under medical supervision. It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance in light of the evidence in this record.

The administrative law judge recommends that the Administrator conclude that the marijuana plant considered as a whole has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, that there is no lack of accepted safety for use of it under medical supervision and that it may lawfully be transferred from Schedule I to Schedule II.

The judge recommends that the Administrator transfer marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II."

Sep. 6, 1988 - Francis L. Young 



Jerome P. Kassirer, MD, Editor of the New England Journal of Medicine at the time of the quote, wrote in a Jan. 20, 1997 editorial:

"Federal authorities should rescind their prohibition of the medical use of marijuana for seriously ill patients and allow physicians to decide which patients to treat. The government should change marijuana's status from that of a Schedule I drug ... to that of a Schedule II drug... and regulate it accordingly."

Jan. 20, 1997 - Jerome P. Kassirer, MD 



The Lymphoma Foundation of America stated in its Jan. 20, 1997 resolution:

"Be it resolved that this organization urges Congress and the President to enact legislation to reschedule marijuana to allow doctors to prescribe smokable marijuana to patients in need; and, Be it further resolved that this organization urges the US Public Health Service to allow limited access to medicinal marijuana by promptly reopening the Investigational New Drug compassionate access program to new applicants."

Jan. 20, 1997 - Lymphoma Foundation of America 



CON (no)

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stated in an Apr. 20, 2006 "Inter-Agency Advisory" :

"Marijuana is listed in schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), the most restrictive schedule. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which administers the CSA, continues to support that placement and FDA concurred because marijuana met the three criteria for placement in Schedule I under 21 U.S.C. 812(b)(1) (e.g., marijuana has a high potential for abuse, has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and has a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision).

Furthermore, there is currently sound evidence that smoked marijuana is harmful. A past evaluation by several Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA), concluded that no sound scientific studies supported medical use of marijuana for treatment in the United States, and no animal or human data supported the safety or efficacy of marijuana for general medical use."

Apr. 20, 2006 - US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 



The American Medical Association (AMA) stated in its June 2001 "Summaries and Recommendations of Council on Scientific Affairs Reports" :

"The AMA calls for further adequate and well-controlled studies of marijuana and related cannabinoids in patients who have serious conditions for which preclinical, anecdotal, or controlled evidence suggests possible efficacy and the application of such results to the understanding and treatment of disease.

The AMA recommends that marijuana be retained in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act pending the outcome of such studies."

June 2001 - American Medical Association (AMA) 



The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) stated in a June 6, 2002 press release titled "High Court Upholds Marijuana as Dangerous Drug":

"After conducting an extensive evaluation, the FDA advised DEA that current scientific and medical evidence demonstrates that marijuana continues to meet all three statutory criteria for placement in schedule I.

DEA agreed with the HHS's conclusions and denied the petition to reschedule marijuana saying that the evidence overwhelmingly leads to the conclusion that marijuana has a high potential for abuse."

June 6, 2002 - US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) 



Mark Souder, a member of the US House of Representatives (R-IN), stated in a Dec. 6., 2004 press release titled "Narcotics Chairman Introduces 'Medical' Marijuana Bill in House: Measure Directs FDA to Educate Public About Hallucinogen's Danger," posted to his website:

"U.S. Rep. Mark Souder... introduced... legislation that would educate the public about the dangers of marijuana, many of which have been hidden by those seeking to legalize this Schedule I hallucinogen under the guise of medicine.

'There has been much disinformation circulated about 'medical' marijuana by groups advocating the legalization of this dangerous drug,' Souder said. 'The FDA has never determined smoked marijuana to be safe and effective. Marijuana is not medicine. And it's time that the FDA fulfills its obligation to the American people by ensuring that they receive the truth about marijuana.

Patients who are smoking marijuana are being denied legitimate care that could improve rather than worsen their medical conditions.'"

Dec. 6, 2004 - Mark Souder