The DEA confirmed to Congress in 2020 that it is “bound” by law to defer to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on matters of science and health, according to a Sept. 13 report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the federal government’s public-policy think tank.
The analysis means the nation’s drug police are unlikely to block a potentially revolutionary advance in federal drug policy.
And that has major implications for the U.S. marijuana industry as well as cannabis users seeking federal jobs or assistance, including military service and public housing.
The “DEA has testified in response to questioning at a congressional hearing in 2020 that it is bound by (Food and Drug Administration) recommendations on scientific and medical matters, and if past is prologue it could be likely that DEA will reschedule marijuana according to HHS’s recommendation,” the researchers wrote.
“(The) CRS is unaware of any instance where DEA has rejected an FDA recommendation to reschedule.”
Legal scholars and drug-policy experts share the view of CRS, according to an MJBizDaily report.
The HHS’ recommendation to the DEA that marijuana be moved from Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act to Schedule 3 was part of an ongoing federal review of the drug’s legal status that President Joe Biden called for last October.
The DEA is now tasked with reviewing how that classification affects questions of law and policy.
The agency also must propose an appropriate change to federal law.
The DEA’s analysis and subsequent proposal could be completed by the end of the year, with changes to federal law finalized as early as next spring, experts told MJBizDaily.
The implications of rescheduling for the cannabis industry would include the elimination of Section 280E of the federal tax code, which bars marijuana businesses from taking normal tax deductions on their federal returns.
Another key change is that Schedule 3 drugs are legally available only with a doctor’s prescription and after a rigorous FDA approval process.