DEA confirms it is reviewing marijuana rescheduling recommendation

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The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is currently “conducting its review” of an earlier recommendation that the agency reschedule marijuana, a DEA official recently told a federal lawmaker.

The potential rescheduling of marijuana started with President Joe Biden’s October 2022 executive order that federal Cabinet-level agencies reexamine the drug’s status under U.S. law.

Biden’s edict led to an Aug. 29 recommendation by the Department of Health and Human Services that the DEA should move marijuana from its current status in Schedule 1 to Schedule 3 of the Controlled Substances Act.

Such a move would unlock significant federal tax reform for beleaguered legal cannabis businesses and also likely advance other federal marijuana reform efforts.

But before any of that can happen, the DEA must propose a change to federal law after due consideration.

And that consideration is ongoing, Michael Miller, the DEA’s lead liaison to Congress, wrote in a Dec. 19 letter to U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer.

The DEA “has the final authority to schedule, reschedule, or deschedule a drug under the Controlled Substances Act, after considering the relevant statutory and regulatory criteria and HHS’s scientific and medical evaluation,” Miller wrote in a three-paragraph letter.

“DEA is now conducting its review,” he added in the letter, which was first reported by Punchbowl News.

It’s unclear when the DEA’s review will be completed; Miller did not offer a timeline in his letter.

A request by a coalition of Democratic governors urging the Biden administration to reschedule marijuana before the end of 2023 already has passed.

But it seems rescheduling is a question of when, not if, based on indicators such as a Congressional Research Service analysis showing it’s unlikely the DEA will contradict the HHS’ recommendation.

Meanwhile, Blumenauer, D-Oregon, wrote in a Wednesday memo that advancing marijuana policy reform would boost Biden’s reelection hopes this year.

“With election season nearly upon us and the Biden-Harris Administration completing its formal review of the scheduling of marijuana, President Biden should keep in mind that no one has been penalized by voters for their embrace of cannabis reform,” noted Blumenauer, who co-chairs the House’s Congressional Cannabis Caucus.

Blumenauer, a longtime cannabis advocate, has said he will retire when his congressional term ends Jan. 3, 2025.