Should Marijuana Be Reclassified as a Schedule II or III Drug?


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)

Ronald Paulus, MD, MBA, President and CEO of Mission Health, stated the following in a July 2, 2017 news release titled "Mission Health's President & CEO Clarifies Position on Medical Marijuana, Differs from July 1 Asheville Citizen-Times Report," available at newsroom.mission-health.org:

"The most absurd aspect of current marijuana policy is its DEA classification as a Schedule 1 drug, defined as having no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Other Schedule 1 drugs include LSD and heroin.  I believe that drugs should be classified based upon science, not emotion. Schedule 1 classification significantly impairs the ability to do rigorous research, which prevents the true pros and cons of medical marijuana from being discerned."

July 2, 2017 - Ronald Paulus, MD, MBA 



Rand Paul, MD, US Senator (R-KY), stated the following as quoted in a June 22, 2017 article by Matt Laslo titled "Medical Marijuana: How Six Senators Are Leading Fight for Federally Legal Weed," published in Rolling Stone:

"I think we shouldn't restrict research into any drugs looking for a potential health benefit. I think right now with marijuana being Schedule I, it's very hard to do research. So one of the good aspects is changing to Schedule II so we can actually do more research on what might help people.

You know we have a lot of terminal patients who want the right to try certain medications. We also have a lot of patients who may not necessarily be terminal but are very sick and may have an incurable disease, and they do get some benefit from marijuana. People with nausea, people with wasting [syndrome], people with seizures. The bottom line is... it's kind of crazy that OxyContin is Schedule II and marijuana is Schedule I. That doesn't make any sense."

June 22, 2017 - Rand Paul, MD 



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)

Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) stated the following on a page titled "Rescheduling Marijuana," available at learnaboutsam.org (accessed July 10, 2017):

"[R]escheduling marijuana is neither necessary, nor desirable... Rescheduling marijuana would do nothing to allow more cannabis-based medicines. Cocaine is Schedule II today and is not allowed in a widespread fashion. Rescheduling would simply be a symbolic victory for advocates who want to legalize marijuana...

The mere act of placing herbal marijuana in Schedule II would not make it available to patients or address the conflict between state and federal law...

Rescheduling is not necessary to make marijuana products available for research... Schedule I status does not prevent a product from being tested and researched for potential medical use. Schedule I research certainly does go forward."

July 10, 2017 - Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) 



Bertha Madras, PhD, Professor of Psychobiology in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, stated the following in her Apr. 29, 2016 article titled "5 Reasons Marijuana Is Not Medicine," available on the Washington Post website:

"While the FDA is not averse to approving cannabinoids as medicines and has approved two cannabinoid medications, the decision to keep marijuana in Schedule I was reaffirmed in a 2015 federal court ruling. That ruling was correct...

Marijuana fails to meet any of [the] five criteria for accepted medical use in the United States. At present, it belongs in Schedule I...

The process for marijuana research could be streamlined by Drug Enforcement Administration oversight and expansion of marijuana production, and a special sub-category of Schedule I could further reduce paperwork. But moving marijuana to Schedule II 'to promote research' is conceivably unethical, as marijuana would then be designated a safe and effective medicine in the absence of high-quality evidence."

Apr. 29, 2016 - Bertha Madras, PhD 



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)