U.S. Democrats urge DEA to reschedule cannabis

Feb 27, 2024

Earlier in January, 12 U.S. Senate Democrats put pressure on the Biden administration to ease federal restrictions on cannabis regulation in a new letter to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on Tuesday, as it deliberates rescheduling cannabis. According to new information from an inside source, the DEA may be soon rescheduling cannabis.

In August 2023, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services formally recommended that the DEA move the drug from Schedule I to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), resulting in an ongoing review.

Rescheduling cannabis represents a significant step towards its legalization.

In the U.S., cannabis has been listed under Schedule I, which represents the highest classification of the CSA, since 1971. Moreover, other drugs listed under Schedule 1 include heroin and LSD.

“The case for removing marijuana from Schedule I is overwhelming. The DEA should do so by removing cannabis from the CSA altogether, rather than simply placing it in a lower schedule,” reads the letter addressed to the DEA by the senators.

So far, 40 U.S. states and Washington, D.C. have legalized cannabis in some form, including recreational or medical use. Furthermore, 24 states, two territories and Washington, D.C. have legalized cannabis for adult recreational use. According to the results of a recent poll, 70% of Americans support federal cannabis legalization.

“The Biden Administration has a window of opportunity to deschedule [cannabis] that has not existed in decades and should reach the right conclusion — consistent with the clear scientific and public health rationale for removing marijuana from Schedule I, and with the imperative to relieve the burden of current federal marijuana policy on ordinary people and small businesses,” continues the letter.

In addition, the supporting documents for reclassification of cannabis provided by the US Food and Drug Administration state that cannabis has a lower potential for abuse compared to other drugs that are subjected to the same restrictions, with scientific support for its use as a medical treatment.

“The [cannabis] withdrawal syndrome appears to be relatively mild compared to the withdrawal syndrome associated with alcohol, which can include more serious symptoms such as agitation, paranoia, seizures and even death,” reads the letter.

The documents were created by FDA’s Controlled Substance Staff, and also state that cannabis meets the following three criteria: 1) a lower potential for abuse than other substances on Schedules I and II, 2) currently accepted medical use in treatment in the US and 3) a risk of low or moderate physical dependence in people who abuse it. In addition, the National Institute on Drug Abuse has agreed with the recommendation to reschedule cannabis.

The DEA has the final authority to make any changes to cannabis scheduling, prior to finalizing any scheduling action, it will go through a rule-making process that includes a period for the public to provide comments.