Yay, Weed is Going to be Rescheduled or Legalized! Republicans: Hold My Beer!

September 20, 2023 · Cannabis.net

Marijuana Moment is reporting a group of 14 Republican congressional members is calling on the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to oppose the top federal health agency’s suggestion to change the scheduling of marijuana, advocating instead for it to remain in the most stringent category as per the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

In a letter addressed to DEA Administrator Anne Milgram on Monday, Senator James Lankford (R-OK) and Representative Pete Sessions (R-TX) took the lead, along with twelve other colleagues from both chambers.

They asserted that any potential adjustment to the scheduling of cannabis should be grounded in facts and scientific evidence rather than influenced by public opinion, alterations in state laws, or the preferences of an administration.

Scientific Basis for Rescheduling vs. Opposition from Republican Lawmakers

Indeed, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has consistently stressed that its examination of marijuana scheduling, initiated by President Joe Biden late last year, has been grounded in scientific principles.

After an 11-month-long investigation, it proposed the placement of marijuana in Schedule III. Anne Milgram has also affirmed that the DEA’s evaluation will adhere to scientific principles.

Nonetheless, the eight GOP senators and six House members seem to doubt the motivations behind the HHS recommendation. In the letter, which The Washington Stand initially disclosed, they asserted that the existing “research, scientific findings, and prevailing trends support the argument that marijuana should continue to be classified as a Schedule I substance.”

They highlighted data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) regarding the prevalence of cannabis use disorder and expressed concerns about the increasing potency of THC in marijuana products.

They argued that these “facts suggest that marijuana carries a substantial potential for misuse, and this risk is rising.” NIDA reportedly endorsed the HHS recommendation for rescheduling before submitting it to the DEA.

“In 2016, the DEA declined two requests to reschedule marijuana. The rejection letter stated, ‘Currently, the known risks associated with marijuana use have not been outweighed by specific benefits demonstrated in rigorously controlled clinical trials that scientifically evaluate safety and effectiveness,'” wrote the Republican lawmakers.

“We maintain that this assessment remains valid today. HHS recommended at the time that the DEA reject these requests and maintain marijuana’s classification as a Schedule I substance.”

The individuals who have signed the letter encompass a group of long-standing proponents of marijuana prohibition. As an illustration, in April, Senator Lankford opposed a modest Senate reform proposal to advance research into medical cannabis for military veterans, and he actively encouraged Oklahoma voters to reject a marijuana legalization ballot initiative this year.

Representative Sessions, who co-authored the letter to the DEA administrator, holds a track record of obstructing virtually every proposed cannabis amendment from progressing to the legislative floor during his tenure as chairman of the House Rules Committee.

The remaining signatories are Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR), James Risch (R-ID), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Ted Budd (R-NC), Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), and Michael Rounds (R-SD), along with Representatives Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Robert Aderholt (R-AL), Buddy Carter (R-GA), Hal Rogers (R-KY), and Chuck Edwards (R-NC).

They expressed that the facts regarding marijuana remained unchanged since 2016. If anything, the circumstances have deteriorated. The letter concluded that it would be negligent for HHS to advise the removal of marijuana from Schedule I. Similarly, it would be irresponsible for the DEA to act upon this recommendation. The nation relies on the DEA to enforce drug laws. “We implore you to fulfill your mission by opposing any endeavor to eliminate marijuana from Schedule I.”

In a separate action, Rep. Greg Murphy (R-NC), another GOP legislator, sent a letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra on Tuesday. This letter raises concerns regarding the agency’s rescheduling proposal and poses several inquiries about the process that led to its decision.

In the meantime, a Republican congressman who favors legalization has recently expressed concerns that merely relocating marijuana to Schedule III might inadvertently pave the way for the pharmaceutical industry to dominate the cannabis sector.

Political Implications and President Biden’s Stance

As for President Biden, he has yet to comment on the HHS’s rescheduling recommendation personally. However, the White House press secretary stated last month that the president has consistently expressed his support for legalizing marijuana for medical use.

Nevertheless, it is inaccurate to claim that Biden has consistently endorsed cannabis reform. As a senator, he advocated for legislation that intensified the drug war.

Although rescheduling marijuana wouldn’t federally legalize access via existing state-level medical cannabis programs, it would remove research barriers and have substantial consequences for the cannabis industry.

Lawmakers in Congress from various political affiliations have lauded the leading health agency’s recommendation. Some view it as a crucial “stride” toward federal legalization, while others attribute the development to their long-standing efforts in marijuana reform.

From a political standpoint, shifting marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III would enable the president to tout a significant reform achievement, initiating an administrative review that could lead to rescheduling over five decades since the government began its war on drugs and placed cannabis in the CSA’s most stringent classification.

However, it’s crucial to note that this change would not fulfill President Biden’s campaign commitment to decriminalize marijuana. Nonetheless, these gradual reforms can potentially invigorate the momentum for congressional initiatives to further alter federal cannabis laws. An example is the marijuana banking reform bill, which Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has identified as a priority for the upcoming fall session.

Conclusion

In a political showdown worthy of a high-stakes drama, 14 Republican congressional members, led by Senators James Lankford and Representative Pete Sessions, have boldly taken center stage. Their demand? A resounding call for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to slam the brakes on the federal health agency’s proposal to reshuffle the marijuana scheduling deck.

Amidst the smoky haze of debate, these lawmakers stand firm, their rallying cry echoing through the corridors of power. They insist that the reclassification of marijuana must be guided by the unwavering compass of scientific evidence, untainted by the winds of public opinion or the whims of changing state laws.

In a plot twist, they point to concerns about the rising THC potency and the specter of cannabis use disorder, making a compelling case that marijuana should remain locked away in Schedule I.

It’s a call rooted in skepticism about the scientific basis for rescheduling and a staunch belief that facts, not trends or public opinion, should chart the course. This clash of ideologies exemplifies the intricate interplay of science, politics, and public perception in cannabis policy, promising an intriguing chapter in the ongoing marijuana saga. (Full Story)

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