State attorneys general urge DEA to reschedule marijuana

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The Biden administration’s push to move marijuana to Schedule 3 of the Controlled Substances Act now has the support of 12 state attorneys general.

The AGs, all of whom represent states with legal adult-use and/or medical marijuana markets, sent a letter to U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration chief Anne Milgram on Friday to “encourage” the DEA to concur with federal health officials’ August recommendation to reschedule the drug.

“We see this as a public safety imperative and write in support of this policy change,” the attorneys general wrote, according to a copy of the letter posted online by Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser.

“While we are not all aligned on the wisdom of fully legalizing cannabis, we do agree, however, that a state-regulated cannabis industry better protects consumers than the illicit marijuana market or the unregulated intoxicating hemp-derived marketplace.”

In addition to Colorado’s Weiser, the letter was signed by:

  • Rob Bonta, California.
  • Anthony Brown, Maryland.
  • Andrea Campbell, Massachusetts.
  • Aaron Ford, Nevada.
  • Michelle Henry, Pennsylvania.
  • Kathleen Jennings, Delaware.
  • Peter Neronha, Rhode Island.
  • Matthew Platkin, New Jersey.
  • Kwame Raoul, Illinois.
  • Ellen Rosenblum, Oregon.
  • William Tong, Connecticut.

The rescheduling odyssey began in October 2022, when President Joe Biden declared federal marijuana prohibition a “failed policy” and ordered cabinet-level agencies to “expeditiously” review the status of MJ under U.S. law.

Marijuana has been a Schedule 1 controlled substance since 1970, an official declaration that the drug has no medical value and a high potential for abuse.

In response to Biden’s directive, the federal Department of Health and Human Services in late August informed the DEA that it recommended marijuana be moved to Schedule 3 – a revolutionary declaration that the drug has medical value.

The DEA is tasked with considering points of law and policy and then proposing an appropriate change to federal law.

That process is ongoing, though little else is known.

Observers believe the DEA is unlikely to contradict the HHS’ recommendation.

However, it’s unclear when the DEA will issue its decision and exactly how long rescheduling would take to become law.

If the DEA approves rescheduling, legal cannabis businesses will enjoy immediate tax relief, the attorneys general observed in their letter.

“It is critical to acknowledge that use of cannabis, especially among youth, still incurs health and safety risks,” the AGs concluded.

“Juxtaposed against the dangers of the illicit market and unregulated hemp-derived cannabinoids, moreover, we believe that there is a public health and safety mandate to protect the state-regulated industry by rescheduling cannabis to Schedule III.”