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Senate Democrats Urge Biden Administration to Swiftly Remove Marijuana from Schedule I Classification

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WASHINGTON — In a concerted effort, Senate Democrats have intensified their call on the Biden administration to relax federal restrictions on marijuana. The move comes as the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) contemplates rescheduling cannabis, a substance classified at the federal level over fifty years ago.

A letter sent to the DEA on Tuesday, spearheaded by 12 senators led by Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and John Fetterman (D-Pa.), and endorsed by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), urges a reevaluation of the drug's Schedule I status. This formal recommendation was initially proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services in August, advocating for the shift from Schedule I to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

The senators assert that the case for removing marijuana from Schedule I is compelling and advocate for the complete removal of cannabis from the CSA, rather than just a shift to a lower schedule. Such a move would have profound implications for both the marijuana industry and its users, particularly those who rely on it for medical purposes.

Since 1971, cannabis has occupied Schedule I alongside substances like heroin and LSD, categorized as having high abuse potential with no recognized medical utility. Despite this federal classification, 40 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized cannabis in various forms, creating a complex web of evolving regulations nationwide.

The DEA, responsible for reviewing the Department of Health and Human Services' recommendation, emphasized its authority to schedule, reschedule, or deschedule drugs under the Controlled Substances Act based on scientific and medical assessments.

Sources reveal that the White House aimed to announce a rescheduling decision around the one-year mark since President Joe Biden ordered the DEA to review the recommendation in October 2022. This move was anticipated to be a strategic component of the administration's campaign agenda for the November elections.

In the letter issued on Tuesday, Senate Democrats contend that the Biden administration should swiftly remove marijuana from Schedule I, paving the way for its eventual descheduling.

This story was originally covered by NBC News.

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