DEA should deschedule marijuana, US senators suggest in letter

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The Drug Enforcement Administration should go beyond health regulators’ marijuana rescheduling recommendation and deschedule the drug entirely, top Democratic U.S. senators suggested in a letter.

The senators’ request comes as the DEA mulls an August 2023 recommendation by the Department of Health and Human Services to move marijuana from Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to Schedule 3.

Shifting marijuana’s criminal status under federal law for the first time since 1970 “would mark a significant step forward, but it would not resolve the worst harms of the current system,” the senators wrote to Attorney General Merrick Garland and DEA Administrator Anne Milgram.

“Thus, the DEA should deschedule marijuana altogether.

“The case for removing marijuana from Schedule 1 is overwhelming. The DEA should do so by removing cannabis from the CSA altogether, rather than simply placing it in a lower schedule.”

The signatories on the letter, first reported by NBC News, are:

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts.
  • Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pennsylvania.
  • Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, New York.
  • Sen. Cory Booker, D-New Jersey.
  • Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon.
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont.
  • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York.
  • Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon.
  • Sen. John Hickenlooper, D-Colorado.
  • Sen. Peter Welch, D-Vermont.
  • Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Delaware.
  • Sen. Alex Padilla, D-California.

The senators’ letter emphasizes the problems that federal marijuana prohibition has caused.

It notes that “rescheduling would do little to rectify the most severe harms of the current system” and demands federal agencies be “fully transparent about the evidence relied upon in the course of their review process.”

The lawmakers’ letter concludes with six questions posed to the DEA.

In summary, they asked:

  • What is the current status of the DEA’s review, and what is the DEA’s timeline?
  • What evidence is the DEA relying on, and if the DEA will determine clinical trials are necessary, what is the “roadmap for developing clinical-trial evidence?”
  • Is the DEA relying on the so-called “five factor” analysis the agency created in 1992, or the HHS’ eight-factor analysis?
  • How would criminal enforcement change if the drug were moved to a different schedule?
  • What changes has the DEA made in its marijuana enforcement policy to comply with President Joe Biden’s recent executive orders?
  • How does the DEA’s rescheduling review take into account the societal harms of marijuana criminalization, including racial disparities?