A group of Democratic senators is calling for the president to remove marijuana from a list of federally criminalized drugs defined by the Controlled Substances Act, according to a press release from Warren’s office.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Pennsylvania Sen. John Fetterman are spearheading the initiative, according to a press release from Warren’s office.
Warren and Fetterman, both Democrats, were joined by nine of their Democratic colleagues in delivering a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administrator Anne Milgram: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY), and Senators Cory Booker (NJ), Jeff Merkley (OR), Bernie Sanders (VT), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Ron Wyden (OR), John Hickenlooper (CO), Peter Welch (VT), Chris Van Hollen (MD) and Alex Padilla (CA).
The letter calls for the descheduling, or removal, of marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act entirely. Currently, it is classified as Schedule I, which is reserved for drugs that have no currently accepted medical use and are determined to pose the highest risk of addiction.
The request follows a 2022 request from the Biden Administration for the Department for Health and Human Services to review the substance’s current scheduling status. Upon review, the HHS determined the usefulness of cannabis in several medical treatments and advised the DEA to reclassify marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III.
The last time marijuana’s scheduling status was reviewed was in 2016, when the HHS recommended keeping it among the other Schedule I drugs.
Warren and her colleagues, however, urged the Biden administration to deschedule the substance altogether, citing the impact the criminalization of marijuana has had on society and the inconsistency between federal and state regulations of the substance.
“Rescheduling would do little to rectify the most severe harms of the current system,” the senators wrote. “…[The] criminal penalties for recreational marijuana use, and for medical use of marijuana products that lack federal approval, would still exist, disproportionately penalizing Black and Brown communities. Similarly, non-citizens could still be denied naturalization and green cards, and even deported, based on recreational marijuana use and most marijuana offenses.”
The senators added that even with the federal decriminalization of marijuana, states could still regulate recreational use of the substance similarly to the regulations in place for tobacco and alcohol.
Warren has spent her senatorial career advocating for the reform of federal and state cannabis policies. This letter is her third attempt at persuading the Biden administration to declassify marijuana. The first two came shortly after a November 2021 call for Biden to pardon all individuals convicted of non-violent cannabis-related offenses.