A coalition of 14 Republican congressional lawmakers is urging the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to keep marijuana in the most restrictive category under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) instead of rescheduling it, as recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). In a letter to DEA Administrator Anne Milgram, the lawmakers argue that any decision on marijuana rescheduling should be based on proven facts and science, rather than popular opinion, changes in state laws, or the preferred policy of an administration. They point to data on rates of cannabis use disorder and increased THC potency of marijuana products as evidence that marijuana has a high potential for abuse and should remain a Schedule I drug.
The letter was led by Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) and Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), who both have a history of opposing marijuana reform. Other lawmakers who signed the letter include Sens. Michael Rounds (R-SD), James Risch (R-ID), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Ted Budd (R-NC), Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) and Tom Cotton (R-AR), as well as Reps. Chuck Edwards (R-NC), Robert Aderholt (R-AL), Hal Rogers (R-KY), Buddy Carter (R-GA) and Andy Biggs (R-AZ).
Another GOP lawmaker, Rep. Greg Murphy (R-NC), also sent a letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra expressing concern about the agency’s rescheduling recommendation and asking for more information on how the decision was reached.
Moving marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III would have significant implications for the marijuana industry and could facilitate further changes to federal cannabis laws. However, it would not fulfill President Joe Biden’s campaign pledge to decriminalize marijuana.
Despite the Republican lawmakers’ opposition, many lawmakers across party lines have applauded the HHS recommendation and consider it a step towards federal legalization. Some have credited their own advocacy for the move and believe it will help build momentum for further reform efforts.