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White House Says Marijuana Rescheduling Is Now Up To DOJ After Receiving HHS Recommendation ‘Guided By The Evidence’



The White House says it’s now up to the Justice Department to make a final decision on marijuana scheduling, adding that the top federal health agency’s recommendation to reclassify cannabis was “guided by the evidence.”

During a press briefing on Monday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was asked about the ever-growing federal-state cannabis policy disconnect and whether the administration intends to “improve safety regulations” around marijuana products by supporting legalization.

Rather than address the question directly, Jean-Pierre gave a brief overview of the cannabis scheduling review that President Joe Biden directed in October 2022.

She pointed out that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has completed its part of the review and recommended that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) move marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

That HHS review was “independent” and “guided by the evidence,” the press secretary said. “The scheduling review is now with DOJ, and any input should be certainly directed to them at a time and in a manner they say is appropriate.”

“This is a matter, at this point—now that HHS has has completed their review—it’s in the Department of Justice,” she said. “They can speak to where we’re marijuana rescheduling is at this point.”

While DEA has not given a specific sense of timing for when it will complete and submit its cannabis review, there are heightened expectations that it will come before the November election—both because of past precedent in scheduling matters and because the Biden administration has become increasingly vocal about its role in facilitating the review.

Biden has continued to tout the marijuana scheduling directive and cannabis pardons he’s issued, including in a presidential proclamation declaring April “Second Chance Month.”

The president also discussed the marijuana actions in a historic context last month, during his State of the Union address.

Vice President Kamala Harris, meanwhile, separately urged DEA to finish its review and reschedule marijuana “as quickly as possible” while meeting pardon recipients for a roundtable event at the White House last month. Behind closed doors, she also said “we need to legalize marijuana.”

The head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under HHS told congressional lawmakers last week that there’s “no reason” for DEA to “delay” making a marijuana scheduling decision.

A DEA official recently said it sometimes takes up to six months for DEA to complete its analysis of health officials’ scheduling recommendations—which is just about how long it has now been since the agency began its current cannabis assessment.

Meanwhile, 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.

Certain DEA officials are reportedly resisting the Biden administration’s rescheduling push, disputing the HHS findings on marijuana’s safety profile and medical potential, according to unnamed sources who spoke with The Wall Street Journal.

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