The Congressional Research Service indicates it “could be likely” that the US Drug Enforcement Administration will reschedule marijuana.
In October last year, President Joe Biden announced a review of how marijuana is scheduled under federal law involving the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Attorney General. HHS submitted its scheduling recommendation to the DEA early this month after what was described by HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra as a “scientific evaluation”.
HHS recommended marijuana be rescheduled from Schedule I – a category for the most dangerous and addictive substances – to Schedule III, which is a designation for substances considered to have a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence.
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) is a public policy research institute of the United States Congress, operating within the Library of Congress. Last week, the CRS released an analysis of the HHS’s recommendation in terms of implications for federal policy. It notes the recommendation is based on the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) review of marijuana and related findings that are not currently available to the public.
While the DEA is to conduct its own review of marijuana and has final say, CRS states:
“CRS is unaware of any instance where DEA has rejected an FDA recommendation to reschedule. As a comparative example, in September 1998 FDA recommended to DEA that Marinol be rescheduled to Schedule III, and in July 1999 DEA rescheduled Marinol to Schedule III.”
Marinol is the trade name for dronabinol, a synthetic form of the intoxicating cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (‘THC’). It’s primarily used to treat nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapy, and to stimulate appetite.
CRS notes there are many federal policy implications of such a shift, including some states’ medical marijuana programs being able to comply with the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), and marijuana producers and retailers being able to deduct the costs of selling their product for the purposes of federal income tax filings.
If DEA decides to go ahead with rescheduling marijuana to Schedule III, it would do so through the rulemaking process.
More from the CRS report can be found here.