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420 with CNW — Reports Indicate DEA Didn’t Support Marijuana Reclassification

In a secluded section of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) headquarters known as the 12th-floor “bubble,” director Anne Milgram called a special “marijuana meeting” in March 2024 where she made an unusual request: no one was allowed to take notes. During the meeting, she informed her top deputies that the Biden administration was about to reschedule cannabis as a less-harmful substance, a significant move toward federal legalization that the agency has historically opposed.

Moreover, Milgram disclosed that this reclassification would be handled by the U. S. Department of Justice, not the DEA, and the final decision would be signed by Merrick Garland, the attorney general.

Milgram did not provide a reason for this unprecedented decision, and neither she nor the agency has done so subsequently. However, the plan unfolded exactly as she described, marking the most significant change in U.S. drug policy in half a century, without the DEA’s support.

The DEA has not yet determined the proper schedule for cannabis, according to a statement tucked on page 13 of Garland’s 92-page decision, which was released last Thursday. According to the order, cannabis would be moved from Schedule I, which is more restricted and contains narcotics such as LSD and heroin, to Schedule III, which is less restrictive and includes anabolic steroids and ketamine.

Internal documents show that the agency sent a memo to the DOJ in January, requesting more scientific data to determine if cannabis has approved medical use, a crucial factor for reclassification. However, DOJ attorneys overruled the DEA’s criteria, considering them too restrictive.

Several DEA officers, both past and present, indicated that political considerations could be driving this action. Rather than giving the DEA more time to carry out additional research, they think the DOJ is rushing the recategorization of marijuana to aid Biden in winning support from voters for his reelection campaign.

The DOJ’s engagement in the rescheduling process, in the opinion of retired DEA agent Derek Maltz, puts politics ahead of public safety. He underlined that such choices must be supported by scientific analysis.

Tim Shea, a former administrator of the DEA, echoed this statement, stating that Milgram’s absence from the signature shows her support for the DEA personnel. He voiced concern that the agency’s position had been overridden by political interference, which he said demoralized DEA staff.

The White House didn’t immediately respond, but it has said in the past that Biden is devoted to his pledge made during the campaign that no citizen should be imprisoned for marijuana use. DOJ attorneys supported Garland’s order, pointing out that it resulted from different perspectives held by the HHS and the DEA. Last year, HHS recommended rescheduling cannabis, considering it less harmful than drugs such as heroin and cocaine, and recognizing its effectiveness in treating conditions such as pain and anorexia.

Despite this recommendation, the DEA disagreed, citing the increasing potency of cannabis and the rise in emergency room visits due to its use. The DEA’s concerns were cited multiple times in Garland’s order. The DOJ, however, emphasized that it is legally bound to follow HHS’s medical and scientific determinations on drug classification.

The internal conflict highlights the ongoing debate over the risks of marijuana, despite 38 and 24 states legalizing it for medical and recreational use, respectively. Public support for legalization is also at an all-time high, with 70% of American adults in favor, according to a Gallup poll. Critics argue that the DEA’s stance is outdated and not aligned with public opinion.

The reclassification process, initiated by Biden’s 2022 order for a review, is expected to be lengthy. The DEA will take public comments on the proposal before an administrative judge reviews it and a final rule is published. While federal marijuana prosecutions are rare, its classification as a Schedule III drug would still subject it to regulation.

Milgram has not publicly discussed her position on cannabis. Known for her data-driven and progressive approach, she has historically viewed the legalization debate as less critical compared to the fentanyl crisis. Her recent brief announcement to DEA employees stated only that the agency would comply with posting the notice and attachments on its website, leaving her personal views on the matter unclear.

This revelation that the DEA wasn’t party to the recent announcement to reclassify marijuana federally may be of little consequence to the marijuana industry and its major actors such as Cresco Labs Inc. (CSE: CL) (OTCQX: CRLBF) as the resulting policy change will require the compliance of all federal agencies.

About CNW420

CNW420 spotlights the latest developments in the rapidly evolving cannabis industry through the release of an article each business day at 4:20 p.m. Eastern – a tribute to the time synonymous with cannabis culture. The concise, informative content serves as a gateway for investors interested in the legalized cannabis sector and provides updates on how regulatory developments may impact financial markets. If marijuana and the burgeoning industry surrounding it are on your radar, CNW420 is for you! Check back daily to stay up-to-date on the latest milestones in the fast -changing world of cannabis.

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