The Joe Biden administration is preparing to reclassify cannabis as a 'less harmful drug'.

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In this context, the Justice Department will remove cannabis from the "first-tier" drug category, which includes heroin, and classify it as a "low-risk drug".

According to analysts, this represents a "historic shift in Washington's drug policy that could last for generations and have far-reaching effects across the country.

The US Department of Justice, which houses the Drug Enforcement Administration, has prepared a proposal to reclassify cannabis as a "less dangerous drug". 

In a statement, Attorney General Merrick Garland said he proposed categorizing marijuana as a schedule three drug with "moderate or low potential for physical and psychological dependence" instead of schedule one, which is defined for drugs with the highest potential for abuse. 

Although restrictions will be eased, cannabis will remain a controlled substance.  Penalties for possession and use of third-degree drugs are lighter than under federal law.

The Justice Department's proposal will be sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review and finalization. A public debate will follow.
The issue is seen as a potential vote-getter for Joe Biden, who will face Donald Trump in the presidential election in November, especially among young people, whose votes he has struggled to win.

In the US, marijuana has been classified as a Schedule I drug since 1970, along with heroin, ecstasy and LSD. 

"Schedule I", a term used in US drug and substance abuse legislation, refers to the highest-risk category defined by the Controlled Substances Act.

This category means that it "has no accepted medical use and has a high potential for abuse." 

Democratic President Joe Biden had started the process of reviewing the reclassification of cannabis in 2022, fulfilling a campaign promise important to left-leaning members of his political base. 

According to data from independent organizations, black Americans and communities of color in the country have been disproportionately affected by cannabis enforcement for decades.  According to the American Civil Liberties Union, blacks are 3 to 6 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, despite similar rates of use.

According to the Pew Research Center, black and white Americans used cannabis at similar rates in 2020.  However, blacks made up 39 percent of those arrested for marijuana possession, despite making up only 12 percent of the US population at the time.

Biden is seeking support from black voters to run for re-election against Republican former President Donald Trump. According to a poll conducted in the US by the Gallup research company in the fall of last year, 70 percent of adults support the legalization of marijuana. This is the highest level ever recorded by his firm.