WASHINGTON (NEWSnet/AP) — The Justice Department on Thursday formally moved to reclassify marijuana as a less dangerous drug.

A proposed rule sent to the federal register recognizes the medical uses of cannabis and acknowledges it has less potential for abuse than some of the nation’s most dangerous drugs.

The plan approved by Attorney General Merrick Garland does not legalize marijuana outright for recreational use.

The Drug Enforcement Administration will take public comment on the proposal to move marijuana away from its current classification as a Schedule I drug, alongside heroin and LSD. It moves pot to Schedule III, alongside ketamine and some anabolic steroids.

The move comes after a recommendation from the federal Health and Human Services Department, which launched a review of the drug’s status at the urging of President Joe Biden in 2022.

Biden also has moved to pardon thousands of people convicted federally of simple possession of marijuana and has called on governors and local leaders to take similar steps to erase convictions.

The available data reviewed by HHS shows that while marijuana “is associated with a high prevalence of abuse,” that potential is more in line with other schedule III substances, according to the proposed rule.

The HHS recommendations are binding until the draft rule is submitted, and Garland agreed with it for the purposes of starting the process.

Still, the DEA has not yet formed its own determination as to where marijuana should be scheduled, and it expects to learn more during the rulemaking process, the document states.

Schedule III drugs are still controlled substances and subject to rules and regulations, and people who traffic in them without permission could still face federal criminal prosecution.

Some critics argue the DEA shouldn’t change course on marijuana, saying rescheduling isn’t necessary and could lead to harmful side effects. Others argue marijuana should be treated the way alcohol is.

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