The Drug Enforcement Administration has, since the 1970s, classified marijuana under the most highly restrictive category of regulation: Schedule 1, meaning it has “no currently accepted medical use in the United States, a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision, and a high potential for abuse.” Marijuana shares this designation with heroin.But drug science has come a long way since the 1970s. Researchers now know that marijuana is actually one of the least-addictive mind-altering drugs. Even chronic uses poses few serious risks to physical health.Most importantly, at least for federal classification purposes, marijuana has been shown to have great promise when it comes to medical use. It’s been shown to be an effective treatment for chronic pain. Given that people with this condition are routinely prescribed powerful painkillers that cause tens of thousands of overdose deaths each year, broader use of medical marijuana in these cases would quite literally save lives.But neither the research, nor more widespread public acceptance, have so far prompted drug authorities to relax federal restrictions on marijuana. The biggest marijuana-related change at the DEA in the past year was an acknowledgement by the administration’s chief that heroin is in fact more dangerous than marijuana. The DEA Administrator still believes that medical marijuana is “a joke.“The DEA is currently in the final stages of reviewing a petition to re-schedule marijuana and has told lawmakers it will have a final decision by July. Advocates of medical marijuana reforms say the petition represents a chance to bring the agency more in line with public opinion, scientific consensus, and the lived experience of millions of medical marijuana patients.

As of Feb. 26, 2015 marijuana was made legal in D.C.—sort of. Here are the ins and outs of the complex pot law. (Gillian Brockell/The Washington Post)