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.