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Congressional Lawmakers Demand DEA ‘Promptly’ Reschedule Marijuana, Regardless Of ‘Internal Disagreement’ At The Agency



A coalition of 21 congressional lawmakers is telling the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to “promptly remove marijuana from Schedule I,” while recognizing that the agency may be “navigating internal disagreement” on the issue.

In a letter led by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and John Fetterman (D-PA), as well as Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Barbara Lee (D-CA), members told DEA Administrator Anne Milgram and Attorney General Merrick Garland that it’s been eight months since the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommended that DEA move cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA)—and it’s “time for [DEA] to act.”

They added that the current Schedule I status of marijuana “produces a cascade of severe penalties for marijuana users and businesses, including for criminal records, immigration statuses, employment, taxation, health care, public housing, social services, and more.”

Citing prior letters, the lawmakers—including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY)—reiterated that while a Schedule III reclassification would be a “meaningful improvement, the only way to remedy the most concerning consequences of marijuana prohibition is to deschedule marijuana altogether.”

“The DEA now has the power to determine whether it will continue the failed approach of keeping marijuana in Schedule I,” the letter says.

“Although some at the DEA have indicated that the agency’s review of an HHS scheduling recommendation often takes up to six months, almost eight months have now passed since the DEA received HHS’s recommendation,” they said. “While we understand that the DEA may be navigating internal disagreement on this matter, it is critical that the agency swiftly correct marijuana’s misguided placement in Schedule I.”

That point references reporting in The Wall Street Journal that said DEA officials are “at odds” with the Biden administration over the scheduling review.

“The longer marijuana remains scheduled in the CSA, the longer our communities face senselessly severe penalties and the longer the marijuana laws of the majority of U.S. states remain in conflict with federal law,” the letter continues. “Right now, the Administration has the opportunity to resolve more than 50 years of failed, racially discriminatory marijuana policy.”

“We trust that the DEA is working as quickly as possible toward a decision on how marijuana is scheduled, as Vice President Kamala Harris recently reassured stakeholders. We are also hopeful that the DEA will not make the unprecedented choice to disagree with HHS’s medical finding that a drug does not belong in Schedule I.”

The letter concludes by applauding President Joe Biden for promoting marijuana reform during his State of the Union address and saying Second Chance Month represents a “prime opportunity to finally begin remedying the harms of marijuana’s scheduling by removing marijuana from Schedule I.”

“We look forward to your prompt action and appreciate your attention to this important matter,” they said.

The letter, which was first reported by HuffPost, also cites a response several senators received from DEA earlier this month explaining that the agency is carrying out its duties in the cannabis review and “must follow the procedures set forth in the [CSA], including an opportunity for a public comment period and a hearing.”

That’s notable, as it appears to be the first time DEA has explicitly acknowledged the likelihood of a public feedback period including a public hearing after it announces the conclusion of its review.

Other signatories on the letter include Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR), Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jeff Merkeley (D-OR), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Reps. Robert Garcia (D-CA), Dina Titus (D-NV) and more.

Meanwhile, the head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says there’s “no reason” for DEA to “delay” making a marijuana scheduling decision.

Last month, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra defended his agency’s rescheduling recommendation during a Senate committee hearing and also told cannabis lobbyist Don Murphy that he should pay DEA a visit and “knock on their door” for answers about the timing of their decision.

Read the letter to DEA on the marijuana scheduling review below:

Biden Grants More Clemency For Drug Offenses, But Advocates Remain Critical About Lack Of Marijuana Commutations

Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.

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