(Reuters) -The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has recommended easing restrictions on marijuana, Bloomberg News reported on Wednesday, citing a letter.
In the letter addressed to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) administrator Anne Milgram, U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health Rachel Levine asked for marijuana to be reclassified as a Schedule III drug under the Controlled Substances Act, according to the report.
Marijuana is currently classified as a Schedule I drug.
About 40 U.S. states have legalized marijuana use in some form, but it remains completely illegal in some states and at the federal level.
The DEA confirmed it had received a letter from the HHS providing its findings and recommendation on marijuana scheduling, pursuant to U.S. President Joe Biden’s request for a review.
“The administration’s process is an independent process led by HHS, led by the Department of Justice and guided by evidence ... we will let that process move forward,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.
The HHS did not immediately respond to a Reuters’ request for a comment.
“As part of this process, HHS conducted a scientific and medical evaluation for consideration by DEA. DEA has the final authority to schedule or reschedule a drug under the Controlled Substances Act. DEA will now initiate its review,” according to a DEA spokesperson.
Cannabis firms such as Verano Holdings and Sunburn Cannabis welcomed the HHS move.
“For far too long, cannabis prohibition and its outdated status as a schedule I substance have unduly harmed countless individuals affected by the failed War on Drugs,” Veranos CEO George Archos said.
Shares of several cannabis firms including Canopy Growth, Tilray Brands and Cronos Group also rose.
(Reporting by Sourasis Bose and Mrinalika Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Shilpi Majumdar and Shounak Dasgupta)