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Colorado And Maryland Governors Want Marijuana Rescheduling Finalized ASAP Amid Reports Of DEA Resistance



The governors of Colorado and Maryland say that, as states move forward with marijuana reform, they want the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to finalize the Biden administration’s federal cannabis rescheduling move as quickly as possible.

Amid reports that DEA leadership has pushed back against the Department of Health and Human Services and Justice Department proposal to move marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) and Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (D) told Marijuana Moment on Friday that, while they can’t speak to the potential internal conflict, they’re urging the administration to move forward expeditiously.

“I don’t think either of us would be the ones to know if there’s some internal matter,” Polis said during the virtual joint event.

But “the sooner this can be completed, the better,” he said.

Moore, who issued a historic mass pardon for over 175,000 marijuana and paraphernalia convictions this week, said he’d “echo” Polis’s call for speediness.

While he hasn’t heard directly about any potential delay in the rescheduling process based on reported DEA opposition, he said that, “from our perspective, I echo that: The quicker the better.”

“Because I know, on the state side, we’re ready to get moving on it,” Moore said.

Both officials during Friday’s event also more broadly commended the Biden administration for moving forward with cannabis rescheduling, though they made clear that this should just be viewed as a positive step in the right direction as they push for broader federal legalization.

“This action from the president is pro-freedom, reduces taxes, helps our economy, improves public safety and supports where over 30 states are with regards to some degree of medical marijuana legalization,” Polis said.

Polis, who has himself granted several rounds of cannabis pardons for thousands of cases, said “governors are really on the front line of cannabis policy,” and so he’s encouraged to see the administrative reform efforts, as well as the work of counterparts like Moore to provide state-level relief.

“But there’s a lot more to be done,” he said, emphasizing the need for Congress to pass bipartisan legislation to protect banks that work with state-legal cannabis businesses, for example.

“Of course, while we applaud President Biden’s work, it is not yet done, and we continue working to move our country and the industry forward,” he said. “Yes, we’re thrilled with the Biden administration and the major action they’re undertaking, and we hope that this finally helps burst the dam of federal action to lead to progress with where 37 states already are with that.”

Moore added that the federal marijuana rescheduling move “was a really important step that the Biden administration displayed—because it wasn’t political, it was data-driven.”

“As we’re moving forward on this issue as a state—and as the federal government continues to move forward on this issue when it comes to the rescheduling of cannabis—we also know that you cannot celebrate the benefits of legalization if you’re not willing to wrestle with the consequences of criminalization,” he said.

Rescheduling is “just the first step. There’s still more to do,” he said. “There’s still more to do on the statewide level. There’s still more to do on the federal level. And while we do applaud the movements that the Biden administration has made on this issue, we just know collectively as a larger country—if we’re listening to our people and we’re following the data—it just shows that there’s more work and more progress that fundamentally needs to be done on this issue.”

When it comes to the DEA’s position on rescheduling, opponents have amplified rumors that agency officials might oppose the proposed change—rumors that a top Biden administration official appeared to acknowledge this month.

In early May, Smart Approaches to Marijuana President Kevin Sabet said he’d heard rumors that DEA Administrator Anne Milgram “did not sign off” on the landmark decision, suggesting that the agency wasn’t on board. As it turned out, Milgram did not put her name on the proposed rescheduling rule, leaving it to Attorney General Merrick Garland to sign the document.

GOP lawmakers in Congress questioned Milgram about the matter during a hearing, but she replied it would be “inappropriate” to comment.

Indications that DEA might not be on board came alongside the rescheduling move itself, with the proposed rule in the Federal Register noting several times that the agency believes “additional information” needs to be collected via public comment or a possible administrative hearing could influence the final scheduling decision.

“DEA has not yet made a determination as to its views of the appropriate schedule for marijuana,” the document said.

Even before the formal announcement, it had been reported that certain DEA officials had been “at odds” with the Biden administration over the rescheduling push.

Asked about the status of the proposed move of cannabis to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act at a recent event in Sacramento, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said his agency made its recommendation based on available science and evidence.

Asked whether there was resistance at DEA, he responded, “Talk to the DEA.”

“Our scientists reviewed the evidence,” Becerra added. “FDA bases its action on the science and the evidence before us. We took action.”

Meanwhile, the White House weighed in on the Maryland governor’s pardons on Wednesday. Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that Biden “commends and welcomes” the clemency, which aligns with his call for state-level action after he issued his own mass pardon for people who’ve committed federal marijuana possession offenses.

Late last month, Biden also discussed his mass marijuana pardons at a rally in Philadelphia, where he finally acknowledged that his clemency actions did not expunge records after he had repeatedly suggested they did.

For his part, Maryland’s governor said he intends to work with lawmakers to facilitate expungements as a follow-up to has pardons.

The proposed rule to federally reschedule marijuana, meanwhile was officially posted last month, kicking off a public comment period that’s expected to elicit a major response from supporters and opponents of cannabis reform. A prohibitionist group is asking the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to extend that comment period by another month.

The White House drug czar, Rahul Gupta, has also discussed the reform move multiple times over the past month, framing it as a “historic” reform that could open the door to cannabis-based drug development. However, he’s also inflated the impact of a Schedule III reclassification, at one point suggesting it would address racial disparities in marijuana enforcement.

The Biden-Harris campaign has also drawn a contrast between the marijuana policy actions of their administration and that of former President Donald Trump, pointing out that DOJ under his administration rescinded federal cannabis enforcement guidance that generally laid out a policy of non-interference with legal marijuana states.

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Photo courtesy of Max Pixel.

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Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Sacramento-based managing editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.


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