In a pivotal move that could reshape the federal stance on marijuana, a top official at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has recommended that the substance be reclassified as a Schedule III substance under the Controlled Substances Act. The recommendation was directed to Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) administrator Anne Milgram in a letter dated Aug. 29, according to documentation obtained by Bloomberg News.
Benzinga spoke to cannabis industry insiders to get further insights. More from Kim Rivers, CEO at Trulieve Cannabis Corp (OTC: TCNNF); George Archos, CEO at Verano Holdings Corp (OTC: VRNOF), Cory Gardner, NCR Advisory Member; Charlie Bachtell, CEO and co-founder of Cresco Labs (OTC: CRLBF); and Boris Jordan, founder and chairman of Curaleaf Holdings (OTC: CURLF), below.
The Assistant Secretary for Health Rachel Levine stated in the letter that her recommendation was influenced by a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) review, conducted following President Biden's October pardon of federal offenses for simple marijuana possession. The President, around the same period, had requested the HHS secretary and the U.S. Attorney General to review marijuana's scheduling under federal law.
Later, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra confirmed his agency has responded to President Biden's directive to provide scheduling recommendations for cannabis to the Drug Enforcement Agency.
“Following the data and science, HHS has expeditiously responded to President Biden’s directive to HHS Secretary [Xavier Becerra] and provided its scheduling recommendation for marijuana to the DEA on August 29, 2023,” an HHS spokesperson said.
According to The Hill, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined to comment on the process when asked about possibly rescheduling marijuana, only noting it is “independent” and led by HHS and the Department of Justice (DOJ).
“[Biden’s] asking HHS and DOJ to take a look at it, to do an initial administrative kind of process or review if you will,” Jean-Pierre said. “It’s going to be an independent process. They’re going to certainly use the evidence. It’s going to be guided by evidence and so I’m going to leave it to HHS and DOJ to move that process.”
Implications And Repercussions
If enacted, this change would represent a momentous departure from marijuana's current status as a Schedule I drug, a category that effectively stigmatizes the substance as having no medical utility and places it …