US treaties shouldn’t impact marijuana rescheduling, congresswoman says

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American commitments in international treaties do not forbid the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration from rescheduling marijuana as recommended, a California congresswoman told the agency.

The DEA has yet to respond to an Aug. 29 recommendation from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to move cannabis from Schedule 1 to Schedule 3 of the Controlled Substances Act, part of a rescheduling review ordered in October 2022 by President Joe Biden.

Some experts have questioned whether U.S. obligations under compacts such as the United Nations’ Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961 might prove to be a rescheduling roadblock.

But U.S. Rep. Sydney Kamlager-Dove, a California Democrat, told the DEA that U.S. treaties should have no impact on rescheduling.

“Applicable Treaties neither require the U.S. to keep marijuana in Schedule I or II nor do they preclude the DEA from accepting HHS’s recommendation,” Kamlager-Dove wrote in a Feb. 16 letter to DEA Administrator Anne Milgram.

“The U.S. is not required under any applicable Treaty to keep marijuana in a specific CSA schedule or in the CSA at all.”

Kamlager-Dove added, in part, that “the overarching goal of these Treaties is to further public health, safety, and welfare in each signatory country.

“Given the devastating effects that the Schedule I classification and punitive approach to marijuana have had on Black communities and communities of color in the U.S., not to mention the public health risks the unregulated market for marijuana-based products poses, and that marijuana has medical use as confirmed by the HHS, adopting the HHS recommendation would advance the Treaties’ core purposes of promoting public health, safety, and welfare.”

It’s still unclear when the DEA will issue its response, though observers have said it could happen this spring.

Many lawmakers and government officials have publicly urged the DEA to move marijuana to Schedule 3, which would boost flagging marijuana businesses through tax relief.

Kamlager-Dove also requested the agency’s responses by March 15 to three questions:

  • Is it the DEA’s position that applicable treaty obligations preclude the agency from adopting the HHS’s recommendation to transfer marijuana to Schedule III?
  • Who has attempted to influence the DEA’s views on applicable treaty obligations and the proposed reclassification of marijuana? Please provide a log of all meetings DEA staff have taken with outside partners on this matter.
  • Has the DEA consulted with the U.S. Department of State or any expert agency outside of the U.S. Department of Justice regarding treaty obligations and the pending administrative process to reconsider marijuana’s Schedule I classification?