The administration of President Joe Biden formally proposed on May 16 to reclassify marijuana as a “less dangerous drug,” a first-time shift that would bring federal policy in line with what is considered public opinion.

In a video statement, Biden said, “No one should be in jail merely for using or possessing marijuana. Far too many lives have been upended because of a failed approach to marijuana and I’m committed to righting those wrongs.”

Since 1970, marijuana has been classified as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), the same level as heroin and LSD. The classification means the drug has no medical use and a high potential for abuse.

Under the new proposal, marijuana would be downgraded to a Schedule III drug, akin to such drugs as ketamine and codeine painkillers, considered to have a low likelihood of dependence.

Marijuana would still be illegal, but it could lead to fewer federal arrests.

The reclassification process to include public comment and a hearing before a judge, will need to be completed before marijuana is downgraded.

The changing policy is seen as a positive campaign issue for Biden as he prepares to face a difficult election rematch with Republican Donald Trump in November, especially among younger people.

A survey by the Pew Research Center revealed a surprising 88 percent of Americans believe marijuana should be legal for medical or recreational use.

Marijuana was first outlawed at the federal level in 1937. The decision was heavily criticized as the drug was seen at the time as being tied to jazz music, the Black community and Mexican immigrants.

With the 1970’s “War on Drugs,” tough federal laws also disproportionately hit U.S. minorities. Opinions began to shift in 2012, as U.S. states began to make recreational cannabis legal for adults. Today, 24 states, plus the District of Columbia, have legalized marijuana.

“This decision is monumental,” the NAACP said on X, formerly Twitter. “Far too many Black Americans have fallen victim to a system designed for their demise.”

Statistics show that racial minorities are overrepresented in marijuana-related arrests. The present classification makes it difficult for businesses in the marijuana industry to access banking services and prevents interstate commerce. The reclassification is expected to allow companies to deduct operating expenses from their taxes, which is currently prohibited.