In a recent letter to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), 12 Senate Democrat legislators have urged President Joseph Biden’s administration to reconsider federal cannabis restrictions as the agency contemplates cannabis rescheduling. The letter, signed by the Senate Majority Leader and spearheaded by Senators Elizabeth Warren and John Fetterman, highlights the strong argument in favor of taking cannabis out of Schedule I. The senators suggest removing it completely from the CSA in addition to downgrading its classification.
In August 2023, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) recommended moving marijuana from Schedule I to III of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), a move that triggered an ongoing, months-long review process. Rescheduling or descheduling (removing it from the CSA completely) cannabis would significantly impact the cannabis industry as well as cannabis users, some of whom use it medically.
Schedule I, which formally classifies marijuana as a substance with high abuse potential and no recognized medical uses, puts it in the same category as drugs such as LSD and heroin. Despite this, different marijuana laws have been passed by 40 states as well as Washington, D.C., leaving users and businesses in a confusing legal environment.
Last month, the DEA stated that it maintained the authority to deschedule, schedule or reschedule substances under the CSA based on medical and scientific assessments despite the HHS’s recommendation.
The White House hoped for a rescheduling announcement approximately one year following President Biden’s October 2022 order for the DEA to review the HHS’s recommendation report. Though no statement has been made, it was anticipated that the matter would come up frequently during the elections in November.
In their letter, the senators noted that Biden’s administration needs to first take cannabis out of Schedule I before eventually descheduling it. The government officials highlighted the administration’s unique opportunity to conform to public health and scientific rationales while mitigating the negative effects of existing federal cannabis regulations on small enterprises and individuals.
Meanwhile, Senators Ron Wyden and Cory Booker, who are also signatories to the letter, proposed comprehensive cannabis reform aimed at decriminalizing and abolishing the federal prohibition of marijuana. However, the legislation hasn’t received the required bipartisan support.
Another measure, the SAFE Banking Bill, attempts to make it easier for banks to offer financial services to marijuana enterprises in places where the drug is legal. The measure passed through committee but is still awaiting a senate vote. Schumer has previously emphasized the importance of the bipartisan-backed bill as a top legislative priority.
Cannabis companies such as Cresco Labs Inc. (CSE: CL) (OTCQX: CRLBF) will be following the developments on Capitol Hill to see whether the legislative front can finally bring reforms beyond what the DEA is expected to announce once its scheduling review is completed.
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