DEA Reminds Congress it has ‘Final Authority’ on Marijuana Rescheduling
** ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS OCT. 1-2 ** A Drug Enforcement Administration agent hands a freshly-pulled marijuana plant off to another law enforcement officer as they work to clear a patch of the week planted beneath a spread of native flora on national forest land near Entiant, Wash., Sept. 20, 2005. Police confiscated 465 marijuana plants at the so-called "garden," a small find compared to the thousands of other plants confiscated on some other busts in the area. The illegal marijuana growing operations are wreaking havoc on counties with huge tracts of open space and few resources to tackle them. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

The federal agency gave no indication as to when it would issue a decision.

The Biden Administration’s Drug Enforcement Administration reminded members of Congress this week that despite last year’s rescheduling recommendation, it retains “final authority” on where cannabis will be placed on the list of controlled substances.

The agency was responding to a request from lawmakers for information on the current rescheduling process.

“DEA has the final authority to schedule, reschedule, or deschedule a drug under the Controlled Substances Act, after considering the relevant statutory and regulatory criteria and HHS’s scientific and medical evaluation,” the agency wrote in a letter last month to multiple members of Congress who had requested an update on the rescheduling process. “DEA is now conducting its review.”

The letter, first reported by Punchbowl News, was in response to a missive from pro-cannabis U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer and 30 others who had expressed support for federal cannabis reform after the Biden administration proposed moving marijuana to Schedule III from Schedule I, Marijuana Moment reported.

The rescheduling was proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services in its own review, which was prompted by Biden’s order to initiate evaluation of the drug’s status.

The letter provided a reminder that the DEA is not bound by the HHS recommendation of Schedule III. Blumenauer and other Congressional cannabis champions argued that removing marijuana from the list of controlled substances altogether – a move known as “de-scheduling” – would be preferable for a number of reasons.

On the flip side, the DEA also recently heard from 29 former U.S. attorneys who support keeping marijuana as a Schedule I narcotic, a level classified as having no medical value and a high potential for abuse.

But the federal agency gave no hint in its letter as to which direction it’s leaning on the rescheduling question or when it may announce a decision. The DEA has no specific deadline, but observers have suggested the process is likely to conclude in the first half of 2024.

John Schroyer

John Schroyer has been a reporter since 2006, initially with a focus on politics, and covered the 2012 Colorado campaign to legalize marijuana. He has written about the cannabis industry specifically since 2014, after being on hand for the first-ever legal cannabis sales on New Year’s Day that year in Denver. John has covered subsequent marijuana market launches in California and Illinois, has written about every aspect of the marijuana trade, and was part of the team that built the cannabis industry’s first-ever trade show, MJBizCon. He joined Green Market Report in 2022.

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