The USA’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has submitted its scheduling recommendation for marijuana to the Drug Enforcement Agency.
While hemp is legal in the USA at a federal level, marijuana is still illegal and is listed as a Schedule I substance under the US Controlled Substances Act (CSA). One of the criteria for Schedule I is a substance has no accepted medical use, but marijuana is being widely used legally in many states for this purpose under state programs.
Back in October last year, US President Joe Biden announced he would direct the Secretary of HHS and the Attorney General to undertake an administrative process to review how marijuana is scheduled under federal law.
U.S. Congressman Matt Gaetz recently sent a letter to DEA Administrator Anne Milgram inquiring as to the status of the initiative after testimony from Ms. Milgram in late July before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Federal Government Surveillance indicated HHS had not yet provided a timeline for sending its recommendations.
That letter was dated August 24 and Rep. Gaetz had asked his request for information and questions be answered by September 15. He didn’t have to wait that long. Late last week, HHS chief, Secretary Xavier Becerra, announced the recommendation had been submitted to the DEA.
“I can now share that, following the data and science, @HHSGov has responded to @POTUS’ directive to me for the Department to provide a scheduling recommendation for marijuana to the DEA,” he stated. “We’ve worked to ensure that a scientific evaluation be completed and shared expeditiously.”
So, what did the HHS recommend?
According to various sources, it has recommended marijuana be rescheduled from a Schedule I to a Schedule III controlled substance under federal law – not de-scheduled as many were hoping. Schedule III would place it with drugs considered to have a low potential for dependency and abuse.
Commenting on the reported outcome, NORML said the rescheduling wouldn’t address the “chasm” between federal policy and those of many states where marijuana is legal.
“Rescheduling the cannabis plant to Schedule III of the US Controlled Substances Act fails to adequately address this conflict, as existing state legalization laws — both adult use and medical — will continue to be in conflict with federal regulations, thereby perpetuating the existing divide between state and federal marijuana policies.”
However, Bridge West Consulting’s Ari Hoffnung says:
“.. reclassifying cannabis as a Schedule III substance would be a win for businesses, consumers and common sense.”
The HHS recommendation is just that – the DEA has final say on scheduling, rescheduling or descheduling a drug under the Controlled Substances Act.