The Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has said the agency remains committed to conducting scientific reviews of marijuana “expeditiously,” as part of President Joe Biden’s schedule mandate last year. , to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for final decision.
A bipartisan member of Congress’ cannabis caucus and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) sent a letter to Biden in December urging the administration to take a clear stance on the federal marijuana delay. HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra sent a reply Tuesday, copied to the letter and obtained by Marijuana Moment.
“Thank you for your letter to President Biden regarding the marijuana schedule. Thank you for your continued interest in this topic,” Becerra said.
But rather than addressing a key request from lawmakers for the administration to “recognize the benefits of full descheduling,” top federal health officials have called for the department’s efforts to implement the cannabis schedule review. I simply repeated the role.
“Following the president’s direction, the Department of Health and Human Services (the Department) has initiated an administrative process to expedite a review of how marijuana is scheduled under federal law,” it said.
“Following the process set forth in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), the department will conduct a scientific and medical evaluation of a drug or substance and present that evaluation with binding schedule recommendations for scientific and medical matters. Submit to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for final scheduling decisions
Ultimately, given the factors specified in the CSA, the DEA will produce findings related to the relative abuse potential, safety, medical use, and dependence of the drug or substance and will determine the schedule accordingly. “
Becerra’s response echoes a key point made by Janet Woodcock, Chief Deputy Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in October, shortly after Biden issued the directive, and a major blow to those guilty of federal marijuana possession crimes. It reflected a large-scale pardon.
That is, a review was conducted by FDA under HHS and the results of that review are: binding, but as far as science is concerned. However, the DEA will make the final decision as he will be in charge of the CSA for scheduling. And the DEA may eventually decide to keep marijuana, but it’s Schedule I.
FDA’s Woodcock similarly said the DEA “has the final say” on potential post-review scheduling decisions.
The letter from Becerra asked how far the Pentagon review has progressed and how it defines the word “promptly,” which agencies have frequently used since the president issued the directive. It contributes little to public understanding.
The HHS Secretary’s official Twitter account posted a link to a Marijuana Moments article on the president’s scheduling behavior on Dec. 5 at exactly 4:20 p.m. ET. (It wasn’t the first time the account had shared marijuana news at the time.)
But while it’s clear that agencies are working to meet the president’s demands, questions remain about the timing of final recommendations and scheduling decisions.Marijuana Moment commented Wednesday on the timing of the review process I contacted HHS asking for help, but a representative was not immediately available.
Meanwhile, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), co-chair of the Cannabis Caucus, who wrote a letter to Biden with Warren in December, is now asking fellow lawmakers to demand transparency from the Biden administration. I am circulating a letter asking me to join him in doing so. Basis for scheduling decisions that follow this review process.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland told a Senate hearing last week that the DOJ was “working on marijuana policy” but was awaiting the results of a scientific review from health agencies.
Biden has regularly touted cannabis pardons and schedule directives in the months since October, including most recently at an event marking the end of Black History Month.
Read the text of the HHS Secretary’s letter regarding the marijuana schedule below.
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