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Marijuana Legalization Opponents Raise Money For Potential Lawsuit Against Federal Rescheduling Move



A day after the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) decision that marijuana will move to the less-restrictive Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act, a leading cannabis prohibition group sent an email to supporters asking for money to fuel its fight against the reform.

“SAM will oppose this change at every level, including, if necessary, pursuing legal action,” the group, Smart Approaches to Marijuana, wrote in the email on Wednesday.

An included link to what SAM describes as a “Rescheduling Legal Defense Fund” asks for one-time or monthly recurring donations of between $250 and $5,000, though supporters can also choose an “other” amount.

“Our new Rescheduling Legal Defense Fund will be used to support our challenges of marijuana laws and regulations, specifically marijuana’s Schedule III recommendation,” the donation page says.

SAM, one of the most outspoken organizations against legalizing marijuana, then cited its representatives’ multiple recent appearances in national news and print media.

“Let’s be clear: this does not mean marijuana is legalized—it will remain federally illegal,” SAM said in its fundraising email. “But, if implemented, moving marijuana to Schedule III would give Big Marijuana billions in tax write-offs as well as continue the normalization of high-potency THC drugs.”

SAM did not immediately provide more details about the possible legal action in response to a query from Marijuana Moment.

In the immediate aftermath of the rescheduling announcement on Tuesday, the organization warned that rescheduling “could have far-reaching consequences for public health and safety.”

Like many supporters cannabis reform, SAM’s president, Kevin Sabet, also complained that the government’s review process was opaque.

“Only when compelled by a legal challenge did they provide clarity on their decision,” Sabet said, referencing the result of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by cannabis lawyers.

He further accused the Biden administration of “starting with the decision and working backward to find the supporting materials.”

The White House, meanwhile, said on Wednesday that President Joe Biden directive to review marijuana’s status—which resulted in the rescheduling decision—was part of the president’s cannabis pledge he made to voters in the 2020 election.

“Let’s not forget that this is something that the president talked about during his campaign,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. “He said no American who only possesses marijuana should go to jail. It is affecting communities across the country, including communities of color.”

As for the rescheduling decision itself, Jean-Pierre was asked by reporters on Wednesday about the status of DOJ’s proposed rule change and replied that the “process continues”—but couldn’t confirm that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has received the proposed rule yet.

The Justice Department did confirm on Tuesday that Attorney General Merrick Garland has “circulated a proposal to reclassify marijuana,” but it’s procedurally unclear where the proposal currently sits.

A DOJ spokesperson told Marijuana Moment on Wednesday that they don’t have “any additional information beyond the statement from yesterday.” A White House staffer deferred to DOJ.

The Justice Department has nevertheless confirmed that the review is now complete, meaning the next step should be a White House OMB review before publishing the proposed rule in the Federal Register. It’s then expected to go through a public comment period and possible administrative hearing before being finalized.

Though Biden did previously campaign on rescheduling marijuana, he also pledged to federally decriminalize the plant. But rescheduling, as is now in the works, would neither legalize nor decriminalize cannabis.

The president has issued two proclamations granting mass marijuana pardons to people who’ve committed federal possession offenses, but there are still thousands of people incarcerated in federal prison over cannabis-related convictions.

The press secretary also said last month that Biden has been “very, very clear” about his support for decriminalizing marijuana. Days earlier, Jean-Pierre reiterated that HHS made its rescheduling recommendation to DEA based on a review that was “guided by evidence [and] by science,” which is “what we believe here in this administration.”

In any case, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have also become increasingly vocal about marijuana policy reform actions in the lead-up to the November election.

Also on Wednesday, congressional lawmakers reintroduced legislation to legalize marijuana nationwide.

SAM greeted the development by posting repeatedly on social media that “Marijuana is STILL addictive!”

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Ben Adlin, a senior editor at Marijuana Moment, has been covering cannabis and other drug policy issues professionally since 2011. He was previously a senior news editor at Leafly, an associate editor at the Los Angeles Daily Journal and a Coro Fellow in Public Affairs. He lives in Washington State.


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