US Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Xavier Becerra revealed in a press briefing on Thursday that his department aims to present a federal cannabis scheduling decision to President Joe Biden “this year”. The announcement provides some clarity on the timeline of the ongoing cannabis review, which President Biden directed late last year.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), under the HHS, is currently undertaking an eight-step scientific review of marijuana. The aim of this study is to determine whether the substance should be rescheduled, descheduled, or remain in Schedule I, a classification for the most strictly controlled drugs under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
“The president instructed us at HHS, the FDA in particular, to review our treatment of marijuana and update it,” Becerra explained. He added that, unlike states such as California, the federal government has not yet changed its laws regarding marijuana.
Becerra stated that HHS, along with other agencies like the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), are working to provide the President with an answer rooted in science and evidence. “We hope to get there pretty soon – hopefully this year”, he added.
While not a definitive deadline, this is the most concrete timetable that a senior federal official has provided so far.
Once the HHS review is finalized, it will send a scheduling recommendation to the DEA, which makes the final decision. While the DEA could theoretically ignore the HHS recommendation, the health agency’s scientific findings are binding.
In addition to marijuana, Becerra also briefly addressed the topic of psychedelics, saying that he would need to “defer” to the expertise of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which also falls under HHS. However, he reiterated that the department is working as fast as possible on the marijuana review.
Several lawmakers and advocates have urged the Biden administration to expedite the scheduling review process. They argue that descheduling marijuana is central to the administration’s stated goals, including restoring the integrity of the law and addressing racial equity.
BOWL PAC founder, Justin Strekal, highlighted the opportunity Secretary Becerra, Attorney General Garland, and President Biden have to bring fairness and sanity by addressing marijuana prohibition correctly and quickly.
Secretary Becerra confirmed the department’s dedication to moving quickly through the review, but added that safety and efficacy will drive this determination.
In March, more than a dozen bipartisan congressional lawmakers sent a letter to Becerra and US Attorney General Merrick Garland, demanding transparency in the cannabis scheduling review. The lawmakers argued that marijuana was scheduled based on stigma rather than science, and it is time to address marijuana’s reality as a state-regulated substance.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) is also reported to be formulating a marijuana policy, pending the results of the HHS’s scientific review.
Overall, this decision could have significant implications for the marijuana industry, possibly opening new pathways for research, medical applications, and broader legalization initiatives. (Source)
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