Republican senators oppose marijuana rescheduling based on global treaties

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Moving marijuana to Schedule 3 of the Controlled Substances Act, as Biden administration health officials have recommended, violates U.S. promises to other countries.

That’s what three Republican U.S. senators – led by former presidential nominee Mitt Romney of Utah – told U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration chief Anne Milgram on Wednesday.

President Joe Biden’s October 2022 directive to reexamine marijuana’s status under federal law led to an August 2023 recommendation by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to downgrade the drug from Schedule 1 to Schedule 3.

But doing so – according to the letter from Sens. Romney, Pete Ricketts of Nebraska and Jim Risch of Idaho – would contradict earlier DEA determinations that “requires it to classify marijuana as a schedule I or II schedule drug in order to comply with our treaty obligations,” including a United Nations treaty signed in 1961.

That stand contradicts U.S. Rep. Sydney Kamlager-Dove, a California Democrat, who in February told the DEA that U.S. treaties should have no impact on rescheduling.

And other signatories to the U.N. treaty the senators cited, such as Canada, have legalized cannabis nationwide.

The DEA is currently weighing its response to the HHS recommendation, Milgram has said, but there’s no clear timeline as to when the DEA will rule.

In the meantime, observers note that the Biden administration has more strongly embraced marijuana reform, possibly as a tactic to recover his standing among young voters ahead of his 2024 reelection bid.

That possibility wasn’t lost on the Republican senators, who wrote that “any effort to reschedule marijuana must be based on proven facts and scientific evidence – not the favored policy of a particular administration – and account for our treaty obligations.”