Jan 4, 2024 - Politics & Policy

DEA tells Congress it’s considering easing marijuana restrictions

DEA Administrator Anne Milgram. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images.

The Drug Enforcement Administration told lawmakers it is "now conducting its review" of whether to soften federal regulation of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act.

Why it matters: Moving marijuana off the list of Schedule I drugs would mark a significant shift away from federal enforcement of a drug that dozens of states have legalized or decriminalized in recent years.

Driving the news: In a letter to Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) last month, first reported by Punchbowl News on Wednesday, DEA official Michael Miller wrote that the agency has "the final authority to schedule, reschedule or deschedule" drugs under the Controlled Substances Act.

  • Marijuana is currently a Schedule I substance — which are considered to have the highest potential for abuse and safety risk with no currently accepted medical use — along with drugs such as heroin and LSD.
  • Blumenauer and dozens of other lawmakers in both parties sent DEA Administrator Anne Milgram a letter in October calling to "end the harmful federal marijuana prohibition and help our law enforcement officers appropriately prioritize public safety."

The backdrop: President Biden in 2022 issued a directive pardoning all prior federal marijuana possession offenses and ordering the Department of Health and Human Services to "review expeditiously how marijuana is scheduled under federal law."

  • The HHS review, sent to the DEA last August, recommended that marijuana be reclassified as a Schedule III substance, which have accepted medical uses and a low to moderate risk of dependence.
  • Blumenauer and his colleagues, however, wrote that rescheduling is "an important step in the right direction" but "not sufficient to correct the wrongs of federal prohibition or to meaningfully address the federal-state gap on cannabis policy."
  • They called for marijuana to be fully removed from enforcement under the Controlled Substances Act.

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