House Republicans pass budget bill that would block marijuana rescheduling

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A committee in the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives passed a budget bill on Tuesday that would disrupt the Biden administration’s move to reschedule marijuana.

Language in the $78.2 million funding bill stipulates the Department of Justice can’t use any money to “reschedule marijuana … or remove marijuana” from Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act.

The bill approved Tuesday by the House Appropriations Committee funds the Justice Department and some other agencies.

The committee is chaired by GOP Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma.

Actionable, or symbolic?

It’s unclear whether the appropriations bill, which would take effect in the 2025 fiscal year, would have anything more than a symbolic effect.

It’s unlikely the Democrat-controlled Senate would approve a budget bill that would disrupt a Biden administration priority.

It’s also unclear whether it’s too late for Republicans opposed to Biden’s agenda to halt marijuana rescheduling.

How we got here

President Joe Biden directed Cabinet-level agencies in October 2022 to review marijuana’s status under federal law, calling the status quo a “failed policy.”

That led to a historic finding last August from health regulators that marijuana has medical value and a currently accepted medical use.

The Department of Health and Human Services based its determination in part on state-legal medical marijuana programs.

The Justice Department then followed up that recommendation this past May with a proposed change to federal law that would reclassify marijuana as a Schedule 3 drug.

If rescheduling were finalized, plant-touching cannabis businesses would get relief from the Internal Revenue Code’s Section 280E, which bars them from taking typical business deductions on federal tax returns.

What’s next for rescheduling?

The Drug Enforcement Administration and Justice Department are accepting public comment on the rescheduling proposal until July 21.

Both a hearing before an administrative law judge as well as lawsuits from marijuana-reform opponents are expected.

It’s understood the earliest the DOJ could propose a final rule – and when rescheduling could be finalized – is this fall.

That could happen before Congress passes any spending bill blocking rescheduling.

Key Republicans, including former Trump administration Attorney General Bill Barr, have formally asked Congress to halt any change to marijuana’s status under federal law.

Chris Roberts can be reached at chris.roberts@mjbizdaily.com.

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