Federal marijuana scheduling decision could come this year, according to Biden official
The Biden administration has hinted at movement on federal cannabis scheduling by the end of the year, after a query from Marijuana Moment. Speaking at a press conference on food science innovation in Sacramento, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra addressed the agency’s timeline for reviewing the Schedule I status of cannabis.
“The president instructed us at HHS—FDA in particular—to take a look at how we treat marijuana to see if we can update our review of marijuana as a drug and how we can make sure how we treat it going forward on the federal level,” Secretary Becerra told Marijuana Moment.
“Places like California have already changed the laws, the federal government has not, and so we’ve been instructed, and we’re underway with that review as we speak.”
The HHS is collaborating with other federal agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Agency, to come to an agreement on whether cannabis should be removed from the Schedule I substances list. The designation, which equates the value of marijuana to drugs like LSD and heroin, has created a laundry list of issues for the emerging legal cannabis industry. This includes a lack of banking services and high taxes due to section 280E of the federal tax code.
“(We’re) working together to try to see if we can give the president an answer that’s based on the science and the evidence,” Secretary Becerra added. “Stay tuned. We hope to be able to get there pretty soon—hopefully this year.”
Cannabis professionals and consumers have waited with bated breath for the Biden administration to make a decision on whether cannabis would be rescheduled, descheduled altogether, or remain a Schedule I substance. The White House said they were reviewing the current cannabis designation in late 2022, which some took as a tiny glimmer of hope toward future reform.
Over a dozen bipartisan lawmakers sent a letter to Secretary Becerra and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland earlier this year, asking for transparency on the review process. The letter called for the removal of cannabis from the Controlled Substances list, saying “marijuana was scheduled based on stigma, not science.”
While Secretary Becerra’s hopeful statement is not a promise of reform, many believe the assertion is another step in the right direction. Cannabis advocates can only assume that lawmakers will hold the White House accountable and urge them to move swiftly with regard to federal marijuana legalization.
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