A GOP congressman is pressing the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to expand on her recent remarks about the origin and timeline of President Joe Biden’s marijuana scheduling review directive.
In a letter sent to DEA Administrator Anne Milgram on Thursday, which was shared exclusively with Marijuana Moment, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) followed up on questions he asked the official in person at a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing last month.
Specifically, he’s asking for a copy of a letter that Milgram said the president sent to the attorney general and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary last year directing the review into the scheduling status of cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
At last month’s hearing, the administrator also told Gaetz that she would ask HHS about the timeline for the department’s review, which needs to be completed before DEA can weigh in—so the congressman is also requesting an update on that discussion in the new letter.
“While it is reassuring that President Biden has formally requested that the process of descheduling marijuana from the list of Schedule I drugs commence, it was concerning to hear you say that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has not provided a timeline for sending you its descheduling recommendation based on its review,” the congressman wrote.
“I believe it is important for the administration to be transparent with Congress regarding where the process of descheduling marijuana stands,” he said, adding that he is asking that Milgram provide responses to the following by September 15:
- Provide a copy of the letter you referenced that President Biden sent to the Secretary of HHS and the Attorney General asking that the process of descheduling marijuana begin.
- Have you asked HHS for its timeline for getting you its recommendation on the descheduling of marijuana? If so, what was HHS’ response? In the case that you received a timeline, provide that timeline.
Gaetz wrote that DEA’s answers to the questions are needed in order for the House Judiciary Committee “to continue oversight of this matter.”
As far as the alleged letter from Biden is concerned, an attorney filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with HHS for a copy of the letter earlier this month—and the department said it had “no records” of such a document.
Marijuana Moment separately asked the Justice Department for clarification around the letter, but a spokesperson referred the question to the White House. The White House pointed to the president’s public statement about the directive but did not provide comment on the letter the DEA administrator referenced.
The question of the technical origins and processing of the scheduling review directive remain of significant interest within the cannabis space and broader public. Both DOJ and HHS appeared to have coordinated statements prepared on the day that Biden called for the review, and issued a mass pardon for people who’ve committed federal marijuana possession offenses. That would suggest that the agencies received some kind of advance notice before the president made the public declaration.
As far as the timing of the scheduling review is concerned, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra did tell Marijuana Moment in June that agencies are aiming to complete their work by the end of the year.
The process starts with a scientific review into marijuana by HHS—and specifically the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under HHS. Once that’s complete, the department will forward its findings and scheduling recommendation to DEA, which will then conduct its own eight-step review before making a final decision. The recommendation from HHS is not binding, as DEA has primary jurisdiction over the CSA and could theoretically dismiss the health agency’s position.
Meanwhile, the White House drug czar said in separate congressional testimony recently that the president’s marijuana pardons and scheduling directive last year are part of an effort to create cohesive cannabis policy within a patchwork of state legalization models.
Congressional Cannabis Caucus co-chair Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) led a letter to Becerra and Attorney General Merrick Garland in March, alongside 15 other bipartisan members of Congress, demanding transparency in the cannabis scheduling review.
Read the congressman’s letter to the DEA head regarding the marijuana scheduling review below: