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Advocates cheer feds’ proposal to reclassify marijuana as lower risk

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(California News Service) Marijuana legalization groups are celebrating after the Drug Enforcement Agency proposed Tuesday to reclassify cannabis as less dangerous or addictive than Schedule One drugs such as heroin or LSD.

Marijuana would be downgraded to the same category as ketamine or some anabolic steroids.

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Dale Gieringer, director of the nonprofit California NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said his organization first sued the DEA more than fifty years ago to get cannabis reclassified to Schedule Three.

"This is a long-overdue step forward for the federal government," Gieringer asserted. "But it does not actually change the legality of marijuana that people get in legal dispensaries in California or elsewhere."

Opponents cited concerns about the safety of long-term marijuana use. State laws legalizing recreational and medicinal marijuana are not affected. However, the new classification would clear the way for more federally funded research on marijuana and would benefit dispensaries by making them eligible for certain tax deductions.

Gieringer emphasized he would like Congress to legalize recreational marijuana nationwide.

"What needs to happen is marijuana has to be formally descheduled taken out of the Controlled Substances Act and treated like alcohol or tobacco actually, by its own separate laws," Gieringer contended. "Not subject to other ridiculous restrictions that apply under the Controlled Substances Act."

The White House Office of Management and Budget is expected to review the proposed rule, which would then be released for public comment.