Congressional marijuana reform leaders expressed their optimism regarding the statement made by a top official from the Biden administration about a potentially imminent conclusion of the cannabis scheduling review. The update is eagerly anticipated by advocates and stakeholders since President Joe Biden directed the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Justice Department to initiate the administrative review.
The HHS Secretary, Xavier Becerra, provided a tentative timeline in a conversation with Marijuana Moment, indicating that he expects to present a scheduling decision to the president “this year.” This statement sparked cautious optimism among the Congressional Cannabis Caucus co-chairs.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) expressed his expectations, stating that he would be disappointed if significant progress isn’t achieved within this year. He expressed the need for urgency in addressing this overdue action. Back in March, Blumenauer, alongside 15 bipartisan members of Congress, had written to Becerra and Attorney General Merrick Garland requesting transparency in the cannabis scheduling review. The letter highlighted the opportunity presented by Biden’s scheduling directive to honestly assess the implications of federal policy.
Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH) shared his approval of Secretary Becerra’s commitment to an extensive review of the scheduling process. He expressed his appreciation for the backing of the secretary in the pursuit of a commonsense approach to the matter.
Meanwhile, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) stressed her desire for the review to result in the removal of cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). She underscored the urgency of federal descheduling, stating it was long overdue. Lee has been pushing for the Biden administration to take decisive steps to end the war on drugs and she remains hopeful about potential progress.
While lawmakers are focusing on incremental marijuana legislation like the bipartisan Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, Lee insisted that the Biden administration needs to act on federal cannabis scheduling “now,” prior to the forthcoming election.
Becerra, during a press briefing in Sacramento, hinted that the timeline suggested by Lee may be attainable. He noted that the President had instructed the HHS to review how marijuana is treated at the federal level. This review is already underway in light of the changing laws in states like California.
Becerra stated that the HHS, in collaboration with agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), aim to provide an answer based on science and evidence soon. Once the HHS completes its review, it will forward a scheduling recommendation to the DEA, which makes the final decision. Although the DEA could theoretically disregard the recommendation, Becerra affirmed that they are working diligently to expedite the process on marijuana.
The overall sentiment among these Congressional leaders points towards optimism and eagerness for a swift and informed conclusion of the cannabis scheduling review. If successful, it could pave the way for significant policy changes concerning cannabis at the federal level.
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