WASHINGTON, DC – Pennsylvania U.S. Senator John Fetterman and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) led nine of their Democratic colleagues in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and U.S. Drug Enforcement (DEA) Administrator Anne Milgram, urging them to remove marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Descheduling would be a major step in undoing failed War on Drugs policies and bringing sanity to national cannabis policy. The letter comes after an August 2023 recommendation from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) that marijuana be rescheduled from Schedule I to Schedule III, a less restrictive category that would lessen but not eliminate criminal penalties. The senators are calling for a complete descheduling of marijuana, consistent with state law, public sentiment, and the need to eliminate criminal and civil penalties for marijuana use and possession.
“We write to urge the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to swiftly deschedule marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA),” wrote the senators. “(R)escheduling to Schedule III would mark a significant step forward, [but] it would not resolve the worst harms of the current system. Thus, the DEA should deschedule marijuana altogether. Marijuana’s placement in the CSA has had a devastating impact on our communities and is increasingly out of step with state law and public opinion.”
The full letter can be found HERE.
In August 2023, HHS recommended moving marijuana to a less restrictive DEA schedule. This followed an October 2022 directive from President Biden requiring HHS and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to review the current scheduling of the drug. Prior to this review, the last review of marijuana scheduling occurred in 2016, when HHS ultimately recommended keeping marijuana under Schedule I. Now, HHS has recognized credible scientific support for marijuana’s medical uses and has reversed its position. The medical science, as well as developments in state law and international law, support removing marijuana from Schedule I.
The senators were clear about the need to completely deschedule the drug: “These harms could be remedied only through fully descheduling marijuana. The Biden Administration has a window of opportunity to deschedule marijuana that has not existed in decades and should reach the right conclusion — consistent with the clear scientific and public health rationale for removing marijuana from Schedule I, and with the imperative to relieve the burden of current federal marijuana policy on ordinary people and small businesses,” concluded the senators.
The letter is also 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 have requested that the DEA and DOJ provide more information on steps taken to act on HHS’s rescheduling recommendation no later than February 12, 2024.
Senator Fetterman is a longtime proponent of legalizing marijuana and has called for an end to the racist War on Drugs. As Lieutenant Governor, Fetterman pardoned hundreds of people arrested on weed charges and as a Senate candidate, he personally asked President Biden to deschedule cannabis and pardon those arrested on cannabis charges. In the Senate, Fetterman has sponsored pro-legalization legislation, including the SAFE Banking Act.