Senators Fetterman and Warren Lead Charge for Complete Descheduling of Marijuana

MarijuanaImage by Ganja Spliff

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a move aimed at reshaping the nation’s cannabis policy, Pennsylvania Senator John Fetterman and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren have spearheaded an effort to remove marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). The two senators, along with nine Democratic colleagues, sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Administrator Anne Milgram, urging them to take decisive action in this regard.

The letter comes on the heels of a recommendation from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) in August 2023 to reschedule marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III, a less restrictive category. Despite this being a significant step forward, the senators argue that it falls short of addressing the worst harms of the current system.

“We write to urge the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to swiftly deschedule marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA),” the senators wrote. They pointed out that while moving marijuana to Schedule III would be progress, it wouldn’t “resolve the worst harms of the current system.” The senators further argued that the placement of marijuana in the CSA has had a “devastating impact” on communities and is increasingly misaligned with state law and public opinion.

The letter also highlighted the HHS’s shift in stance regarding marijuana. Following a directive from President Biden in October 2022, the HHS reviewed the scheduling of the drug and reversed its previous position. The department now acknowledges credible scientific support for marijuana’s medical uses.

The senators’ call for complete descheduling reflects a growing sentiment among lawmakers and the public alike. They argue that only through full descheduling can the harms caused by the current federal marijuana policy be remedied, particularly for ordinary people and small businesses.

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The letter was co-signed by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Ron Wyden (D-OR), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Peter Welch (D-VT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Alex Padilla (D-CA).

The senators’ call to action is a significant step towards potentially undoing the failed War on Drugs policies and bringing a more rational approach to national cannabis policy. If successful, this could lead to a drastic reduction in the criminalization of marijuana use and possession, which disproportionately impacts marginalized communities.

However, the path to descheduling is fraught with political and regulatory challenges. The senators have requested further information on steps taken to act on the HHS’s rescheduling recommendation by February 12, 2024. As the deadline approaches, the nation will be watching closely to see if this bipartisan push can bring about a change that reflects evolving public sentiment and scientific understanding.

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