In the USA, more than a dozen Republican lawmakers have put their name to a letter urging the Drug Enforcement Administration to maintain marijuana’s Schedule I status.
Schedule I status is reserved for substances with a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use, and a lack of accepted safety under medical supervision. Marijuana has been classified as a Schedule I substance for fifty years, even though it has increasingly been used for medicinal purposes.
US President Joe Biden announced in October last year he would direct the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Attorney General to undertake an administrative process to review how marijuana is scheduled under federal law.
Close to 11 months later and after an indirect poke from Congressman Matt Gaetz, HHS submitted its scheduling recommendation to the DEA in early September. After what HHS chief, Secretary Xavier Becerra, described as a “scientific evaluation”, HHS recommended marijuana be rescheduled from a Schedule I to a Schedule III controlled substance. Schedule III designation is for substances with a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence.
A bunch of Republican members of Congress and senators have balked at this. Senator James Lankford and Representative Pete Sessions are the main signatories on a bicameral letter to the DEA urging the agency to not remove marijuana from the list of Schedule I drugs. They were joined by another dozen.
“Any effort to reschedule marijuana should be based on proven facts and science—not popular opinion, changes in state laws, or the preferred policy of an Administration,” the letter states. “It is irresponsible for Health and Human Services (HHS) to recommend that marijuana be removed from Schedule I. It would also be irresponsible for DEA to act on this recommendation.”
They also state the known facts about marijuana have not changed since 2016, the year the DEA denied petitions to commence proceedings reschedule marijuana. But much more research has occurred since, and marijuana products have evolved.
The DEA has final say on whether marijuana will be rescheduled, and it’s not clear yet when it will arrive at a decision.