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Opinion: Here’s why marijuana should not be reclassified as a lower-risk drug

Editor’s Note: Michael Brown is the global director of counter-narcotics technology at Rigaku Analytical Devices. His career as a special agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) spanned more than 32 years and saw him involved in the interdiction of multi-ton amounts of marijuana in the United States and overseas. Most recently he was the DEA Headquarters staff coordinator for the Office of Foreign Operations for the Middle East-Europe-Afghanistan-India. The views expressed in this commentary are his own. Read more opinionat CNN.


The Biden administration is moving toward reclassifying marijuana as a less dangerous drug, which will foreseeably embolden Mexican cartels and Chinese legal growing operations to generate millions in profit while creating greater strains on law enforcement and increasing health-related risks, from severe depression to impairing psychosis.

Michael Brown

The Justice Department moved forward last month with the rulemaking process to reclassify marijuana from a Schedule I drug, which includes substances with high potential for abuse such as heroin, to a Schedule III drug, which is defined as having “moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence” and includes substances such as testosterone and Tylenol with codeine.

If it is approved, marijuana will still be regulated, but the rules would not be as strict as they are now. Currently, medical marijuana is legal in 38 US states, and recreational use is legal in 24 states. These state laws have led to the growth of a $30 billion industry.

The federal reclassification of marijuana would most likely be popular among many people who support the open use of marijuana, especially young people.