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Top House Democrat Says Marijuana Rescheduling Is A ‘Step In The Right Direction,’ While GOP Leader Opposes Reform



The top Democrat in the U.S. House says the Biden administration’s move to reschedule marijuana is a “step in the right direction,” but it should be followed up with congressional action such as passing a legalization bill that was reintroduced on the Senate side this week. A top GOP leader, on the other hand, is voicing opposition to even the modest proposal to reclassify cannabis.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) said during a press briefing on Wednesday that he supports both the administrative reform that the Justice Department announced—moving to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule III drug under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA)—and the legislation filed by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and 17 Democratic colleagues to end prohibition altogether.

Jeffries said he’s been “long involved in the effort to try to deschedule marijuana and break the back of the prison industrial complex and mass incarceration in the United States of America,” adding that it was an “honor” to work on a bipartisan basis during the last administration to enact sentencing reform.

Jeffries and Schumer also previously introduced companion versions of a separate cannabis legalization proposal called the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act.

With respect to rescheduling, Jeffries said “the effort taken by the Biden administration was impactful and another step in the right direction that we should build upon legislatively.”

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA), meanwhile, criticized the administration’s rescheduling action, saying the government should be focused on “reducing the number of people that use drugs and not increasing that number.”

“We shouldn’t be making matters worse,” he said.


President Joe Biden directed the scheduling review, but he has not specifically weighed in on DOJ’s proposal to move marijuana Schedule III yet. The White House said on Wednesday that the decision is generally consistent with the president’s 2020 marijuana reform campaign pledges.

The prospects of building upon that with legislation to legalize marijuana are doubtful this session in a divided Congress, however. Instead, lawmakers, advocates and stakeholders are focused on advancing a bipartisan cannabis banking bill.

To that end, Schumer signaled he’s not giving up hope on attaching the Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation (SAFER) Banking Act to must-pass aviation legislation. But Republican leaders in both chambers represent roadblocks for the reform.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has made clear that he’s opposed to that option.

Schumer also said on Tuesday that while the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) decision to propose marijuana rescheduling is a “historic step forward,” he remains “strongly committed” to advancing cannabis banking and legalization legislation this session.

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Meanwhile, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) spoke out against the marijuana banking bill this week, linking the legal marketplace to a deadly 2022 shooting at a cannabis facility that involved people who “were all from China.”

The bipartisan support for the bill is evident, however. Just last week, the Republican vice chair of the House Financial Services Committee, Rep. French Hill (R-AR) said he would support a hybrid marijuana banking and cryptocurrency regulation bill, saying “our country will benefit” if both reforms are enacted.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), separately said that “now is the time” to pass cannabis banking reform, and she’s “hopeful” lawmakers will “overcome” any potential challenge from McConnell as they work to advance the legislation.

Last week Schumer once again included the bipartisan marijuana banking bill in a list of legislative priorities he hopes to advance this year.

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

Photo element courtesy of Carlos Gracia.

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