Why the federal government classifies marijuana like heroin (Vox Media)

By GERMAN LOPEZ | August 7, 2014

DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart speaks at a conference. Globo via Getty Images

DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart speaks at a conference.
Globo via Getty Images

At the center of the country’s marijuana legalization debate is the US drug scheduling system, which the federal government has used for decades to regulate what it defines as a controlled substance.

When the New York Times Editorial Board on July 26 endorsed federal legalization and initiated another round of the national debate, it essentially called on the federal government to undo its strict classification of marijuana and leave it up to the states to regulate the production, sales, and possession of pot. The classification is one of the major reasons states face legal hurdles and federal obstruction when they try to legalize marijuana for recreational and medical purposes.

But short of very unlikely congressional action, changing or removing a drug’s schedule is very complicated.

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