The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is “likely” to accept the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) recommendation that cannabis be rescheduled at the federal level.
That’s according to a recent report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS), which pointed toward 2020 testimony in which the DEA said it is bound by recommendations from the FDA. The FDA said cannabis should be rescheduled based on its review conducted at the request of President Joe Biden.
The CRS said it’s unaware of the DEA ever rejecting an FDA recommendation to reschedule a controlled substance and pointed toward a recent instance where the DEA rescheduled Marinol 10 months after the FDA recommended doing so.
The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) places various substances in five schedules. Cannabis currently sits in Schedule I alongside heroin and LSD. Schedule I substances are defined as drugs with no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. HHS has recommended moving cannabis to Schedule III with other substances considered to have moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence along with currently accepted uses for medical treatment.
“If marijuana is rescheduled to Schedule III, it would have broad implications for federal policy. Also, this move would have significant implications for state medical marijuana programs and users of medical marijuana, but fewer implications for state recreational marijuana programs and those who use marijuana recreationally. This insight discusses both the potential rescheduling and select policy implications,” the CRS wrote in its report.
The CRS said rescheduling cannabis could potentially mean those who manufacture, distribute, dispense and possess medical marijuana may now be able to do so lawfully under the CSA, and that states’ medical marijuana programs may now be able to comply with the CSA.
It also said the scope of and demand for FDA oversight for medical marijuana and related products may grow considerably, meaning the agency may need to “consider long-term resource allocation to ensure that marijuana products consistently meet applicable regulatory standards.”
Rescheduling could also allow cannabis producers and retailers to deduct business expenses from their federal income tax filings.
As the DEA conducts its own review of cannabis, the CRS said it’s possible Congress could choose to either move cannabis to a different schedule, create a separate classification for cannabis or remove cannabis as a controlled substance altogether.
Earlier this week, a group of Congressional GOP lawmakers sent a letter to the DEA urging it not to reschedule cannabis.
“Any effort to reschedule marijuana should be based on proven facts and science—not popular opinion, changes in state laws, or the preferred policy of an Administration…It is irresponsible for Health and Human Services (HHS) to recommend that marijuana be removed from Schedule I. It would also be irresponsible for the DEA to act on this recommendation,” the members wrote.