Skip to content

Some Democrats stoked by Biden administration’s marijuana move

Attorney general circulated a proposal to reclassify marijuana as a less dangerous drug

District of Columbia Marijuana Justice holds a rally outside of the  Senate office buildings with an inflatable 51-foot joint, calling for legalization of marijuana.
District of Columbia Marijuana Justice holds a rally outside of the Senate office buildings with an inflatable 51-foot joint, calling for legalization of marijuana. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Some congressional Democrats said Tuesday the Biden administration move to reclassify marijuana as a less dangerous drug would not stop them from pressing for further changes.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., heralded the development in a statement, promising to continue work on legislation to permit banking services for cannabis businesses and to remove the drug entirely from the federal drug schedule.

“It is great news that DEA is finally recognizing that restrictive and draconian cannabis laws need to change to catch up to what science and the majority of Americans have said loud and clear,” Schumer said.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said on social media Tuesday that the government for the first time “will no longer treat marijuana the same as heroin.”

“It’s a big deal. I fought hard for this common sense and historic step,” Warren said. “We need to fully legalize marijuana and begin to repair the harms of an unjust war on drugs.”

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland on Tuesday “circulated a proposal to reclassify marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III,” Xochitl Hinojosa, Justice Department director of public affairs, said in a statement Tuesday evening.

“Once published by the Federal Register, it will initiate a formal rulemaking process as prescribed by Congress in the Controlled Substances Act,” Hinojosa said.

The move was first reported Tuesday by The Associated Press and other outlets.

“About time: treating marijuana the same as heroin never made any sort of sense,” Rep. Chris Deluzio, D-Pa., posted on social media.

Some Republicans have criticized the Biden administration’s approach to marijuana, even as more and more states legalize both medical and recreational use. Wide variations in potency and teen use are also causing concerns from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., on Tuesday called it “a dangerous mistake” to remove restrictions “on an addictive gateway drug like Marijuana.”

“Numerous studies, including a recent and reputable study published by JAMA, points to the negative impact recreational marijuana has on the body and brain,” Harris said in a social media post. “If the Biden Administration follows through with rescheduling, this decision will be anti-science and harmful to public health and safety.”

The Department of Health and Human Services has recommended the Drug Enforcement Administration demote cannabis from Schedule I to the less stringent Schedule III. President Joe Biden directed HHS to revisit marijuana scheduling in October 2022.

A group of congressional Democrats, in a letter addressed last week to Garland and DEA Administrator Anne Milgram, asked why the decision was taking so long.

Marijuana remains in the most restrictive schedule of the Controlled Substances Act, the letter states, but is used widely and is associated with “fewer adverse outcomes than alcohol.”

“This placement produces a cascade of severe penalties for marijuana users and businesses, including for criminal records, immigration statuses, employment, taxation, health care, public housing, social services, and more,” the letter states.

Michael Macagnone contributed to this report.

Recent Stories

Latest Biden, Harris pitch to Black voters slams Trump in crucial battleground

House Ethics forms subpanel to probe Cuellar’s alleged bribery scheme

Alito rejects requests to step aside from Trump-related cases

Capitol Ink | Aerial assault

Auto parts suppliers fear a crash with shift to EVs

As summer interns descend on the Hill, this resource office is ready