Biden drug czar hints at interstate commerce if marijuana is rescheduled

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Marijuana rescheduling could allow for “legitimate interstate commerce within the federal system,” the Biden administration’s drug czar said in a recent interview.

In comments to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Dr. Rahul Gupta, the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, also hinted at a timeline for when marijuana might officially make the move from Schedule 1 to Schedule 3 of the Controlled Substances Act.

“Rescheduling is a process that will continue to go on for the remainder of the year,” said Gupta, a physician and former top public health officer in West Virginia.

Process is unclear

Gupta’s comments come in the weeks since U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland signed off on an August 2023 recommendation by the Department of Health and Human Services that marijuana has medical value and should no longer be designated by the federal government as more dangerous than fentanyl.

Currently, the Drug Enforcement Administration is accepting public comments on the proposed shift until July 22.

After that, the timeline is not entirely clear.

The typical federal rulemaking process requires a public agency to consider comments while issuing a final rule, though there’s no clear deadline for the DEA to do that in this instance.

Observers have speculated that a final rule could be issued as soon as September or October.

Though the rule isn’t finalized, Gupta also seemed to embrace marijuana’s new status as medicine.

‘Remove barriers’ to research

“This is going to be really important to remove barriers to critical research and perhaps drug development, and it could also lead to more research into the benefits of medical marijuana,” he told the Star Tribune.

That raises questions about legal access and commercial opportunities, but Gupta declined to answer.

He noted that Schedule 3 drugs are generally lower priority for law enforcement, adding that “whether in Massachusetts or West Virginia or Texas, Americans should be able to get treatment for their condition.”

“We do know the drugs that are Schedule 3 are in legitimate interstate commerce within the federal system,” he said.

“I’ll leave it to others to talk about the commercial process.”

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