Pennsylvania’s junior Sen. John Fetterman is applauding the decision by the Biden Administration to reschedule marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule III drug.
“For many, many years now, I have been pushing for decisive action on marijuana,” said Fetterman. “Nearly one year ago to the day, I met with President Biden in Pittsburgh and requested that he and his administration do something on marijuana policy.
“Yesterday’s move is a massive win for the Biden administration and a strong step in the right direction on marijuana policy. I’m glad to see that the administration agrees with what we have known for a while: marijuana should not be a Schedule I drug.
Last October, President Joe Biden requested that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Department of Justice conduct a review of how marijuana is currently scheduled under federal law. Marijuana is currently classified as a Schedule I controlled substance, meaning the DEA considers it a drug “with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”
The HHS confirmed it sent its findings to the Drug Enforcement Agency this week but would not specify what the recommendation was. According to an HHS letter obtained by Bloomberg, the agency recommended reclassifying marijuana as a Schedule III drug, or a substance considered to have “moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence”
Drugs, substances, and certain chemicals used to make drugs are classified into five (5) distinct categories or schedules depending upon the drug’s acceptable medical use and the drug’s abuse or dependency potential. Schedule III drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence. Schedule III drugs abuse potential is less than Schedule I and Schedule II drugs but more than Schedule IV. Some examples of Schedule III drugs are: products containing less than 90 milligrams of codeine per dosage unit (Tylenol with codeine), ketamine, anabolic steroids, testosterone.
Currently, 23 states and D.C. have enacted laws regulating the nonmedical use of marijuana for adults. Several others have medical marijuana programs in place, but federal law still prohibits the possession of any amount of marijuana.
“Moving marijuana from Schedule I will have huge benefits for people across Pennsylvania and this country, especially our veterans who rely on it as treatment for conditions like PTSD,” said Fetterman.
“But we should also be clear that we have been in this exact spot before, with science on the side of rescheduling, only to have the DEA and its destructive ‘War on Drugs’ mindset block reform. That must not happen again.”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined to comment on the process when asked about possibly rescheduling marijuana Wednesday, 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.”
“This decision is long overdue and a step in the right direction, but it cannot be the last action we take on marijuana policy,” said Fetterman. “In the Senate, I will keep fighting to go further, to legalize marijuana and restore the lives of the countless people across this country who have lost their futures from the use of a plant and the failed ‘War on Drugs.’”
Congressman Dwight Evans (D-03) also signed onto the recommendation. “As a longtime supporter of legalizing cannabis, I also support the more limited step of re-classifying to Schedule III. This is just common sense and the federal government should absolutely do it!”
Updated to include statement from Evans