The criteria the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration uses in determining which of its five categories or “schedules” are appropriate for individual drugs was established in law with passage of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which comprises Title II of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970. Section 812 of the CSA, which created the system of “schedules” for categorizing drugs according to levels of addiction and legitimate medical applications, states that Schedule I drugs are those that “…have a high potential for abuse…has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States…(and) there is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.”
Under the same provision, Schedule II drugs are defined as those with “…a high potential for abuse…a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States or a currently accepted medical use with severe restrictions…(and) abuse of the drug or other substances may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.”
In order, then, for a drug to be moved from Schedule I to Schedule II, either the law has to be changed -- in effect, the definitions of “schedules” have to be rewritten -- or new scientifically-derived information regarding the drug in question has to be presented to the DEA. While amending the existing statute is certainly feasible, more likely is that scientific data regarding a drug will be “reevaluated” in such a way that it can be moved from one schedule to another. Proponents of legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana -- a movement that has grown considerably over the past few years in some states -- have argued that marijuana has been misunderstood for decades and that its legitimate medicinal applications and an exaggerated estimate of its addictiveness argue for its movement from Schedule I to II.