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DEA confirmed to Congress in 2020 that it is “bound” by law to defer to the Department of Health and Human Services on matters of science and health, according to a Sept. 13 report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the federal government’s public-policy think tank.
The analysis means the nation’s drug police are unlikely to block a potentially revolutionary advance in federal drug policy.
And that has major implications for the U.S. cannabis industry as well as marijuana users seeking federal jobs or assistance, including military service and public housing.
“DEA has testified in response to questioning at a congressional hearing in 2020 that it is bound by FDA’s recommendations on scientific and medical matters, and if past is prologue it could be likely that DEA will reschedule marijuana according to HHS’s recommendation,” the researchers wrote.
“CRS is unaware of any instance where DEA has rejected an FDA recommendation to reschedule,” the report said.
Legal scholars and drug-policy experts share the view of CRS, as MJBizDaily reported.
HHS’ recommendation to DEA that cannabis be moved from Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act to Schedule 3 was part of the ongoing federal review of marijuana’s legal status that President Joe Biden launched last October.
DEA is now tasked with reviewing how that classification affects questions of law and policy, including U.S. obligations under international drug-control treaties.
The agency also must propose an appropriate change to federal law.
The DEA’s analysis and subsequent proposal could be completed by the end of the year, with changes to federal law finalized as early as next spring, experts told MJBizDaily.
Rescheduling would have major implications for the cannabis industry as well as marijuana users.
The punitive tax code section 280E that bars marijuana businesses from taking normal tax deductions on their federal returns would no longer apply.
Medical marijuana users might see barriers to federal employment, public housing, immigrant visas and firearm ownership lifted, the researchers wrote.
Schedule 3 drugs are legally available only with a doctor’s prescription and after a rigorous FDA-approval process.