April 25, 2024

Warren, Fetterman, Schumer, Blumenauer, Lee, 16 Lawmakers to DEA: Move Swiftly to Reschedule Marijuana

Lawmakers Frustrated with DEA Inaction Despite Guidance from President Biden and Department of Health and Human Services

“It is time for the DEA to make good on the President’s commitments.”

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and John Fetterman (D-Pa.) and U.S. Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) led 17 lawmakers in a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Administrator Anne Milgram, expressing their growing frustration that the DEA has not acted to remove marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. They are asking the DEA to swiftly take action and begin to remedy the harms of marijuana’s scheduling by removing marijuana from the agency’s Schedule I list of controlled substances. 

The letter was also signed by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Representatives Dina Titus (D-Nev.), Becca Balint (D-Vt.), Robert Garcia (D-Calif.), Val Hoyle (D-Ore.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Katie Porter (D-Calif.), and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.).

“We are now nearing eight months since the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommended rescheduling marijuana to Schedule III — and 18 months since President Biden directed HHS and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to begin the process of reviewing marijuana’s scheduling. It is time for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to act,” wrote the lawmakers. 

According to HHS, though marijuana use is associated with fewer adverse outcomes than alcohol, it remains in the most restrictive schedule of the CSA, creating severe penalties for marijuana users and businesses, including for criminal records, immigration statuses, employment, taxation, health care, public housing, social services, and more. In January 2024, Senators Warren and Fetterman led nine senators to urge the DEA to remove marijuana from Schedule I, but DEA’s response did not answer the senators’ questions and simply noted that, currently, the agency is “carefully following” the procedures for taking scheduling actions “as it conducts an administrative review of the scheduling of marijuana.”

“On August 29, 2023, HHS recommended that the DEA move marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III. The DEA has said that it is now conducting ‘an administrative review of the scheduling of marijuana,’ a process that entails considering HHS’s recommendation. Although some at the DEA have indicated that the agency’s review of an HHS scheduling recommendation often takes up to six months, almost eight months have now passed since the DEA received HHS’s recommendation… The longer marijuana remains scheduled in the CSA, the longer our communities face senselessly severe penalties and the longer the marijuana laws of the majority of U.S. states remain in conflict with federal law. Right now, the Administration has the opportunity to resolve more than 50 years of failed, racially discriminatory marijuana policy,” continued the lawmakers. 

Given these concerns, the lawmakers are calling on the DEA to deliver on the Biden administration’s commitment to remedy the harms of marijuana’s scheduling, and act swiftly to remove marijuana from Schedule I. 

Senator Warren has long fought to reform cannabis policy and provide justice to individuals currently and formerly incarcerated for cannabis-related offenses:

  • In January 2024, Senators Warren and Fetterman led nine senators in a letter to the DOJ and DEA, urging the DEA to remove marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.
  • In November 2023, Senators Warren, Merkley, Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) and Representative Blumenauer  led 16 lawmakers in a letter to Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen and Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) Director Andrea Gacki, asking FinCEN to update its out-of-date guidance on marijuana-related businesses to promote fairness in financial services for marijuana businesses operating in states where marijuana is no longer illegal.
  • In May 2023, at a hearing of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, Senator Warren highlighted the importance of passing the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which would create a safe harbor from prosecution, asset forfeiture, or other liability for financial institutions that serve cannabis businesses, as a critical step toward helping cannabis businesses access safe banking services and protecting workers from the safety risks of working in cash-only businesses.
  • In December 2022, Senator Warren and Representative Blumenauer led a bipartisan and bicameral group of lawmakers in a letter urging the Biden-Harris Administration to deschedule marijuana. 
  • In July 2022, Senators Warren and Sanders led a letter to President Biden, Attorney General Merrick Garland, and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, following up on previous requests that the administration use its authority to deschedule cannabis and pardon non-violent cannabis-related offenders.
  • In November 2021, Senators Warren, Markey, and Merkley sent a letter to President Biden urging him to use his authority to pardon all individuals convicted of federal non-violent cannabis offenses.
  • In October 2021, Senators Warren and Booker urged Attorney General Merrick Garland to decriminalize cannabis by removing the drug from the list of federally controlled substances.
  • In March 2021, Senators Warren, Merkley, and Steve Daines (R-Mont.) cosponsored the bipartisan SAFE Banking Act to ensure that legal cannabis businesses have access to critical banking services.