Republicans in Congress sent a public comment letter this week opposing the Biden administration’s planned rescheduling of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), alleging the government’s recommendation was based on politics rather than science.

Led by Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) and Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), the letter opposing the move of cannabis to Schedule III was signed 23 other House and Senate GOP congressional lawmakers. It was addressed to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland at the Department of Justice (DOJ).

“The decision to disregard public safety and medical concerns to reclassify marijuana is strictly political,” Sessions claimed in a press release about the letter. “This egregious proposed rule fails to provide sufficient science and data in support. Senator Lankford and I are leading the charge in raising the alarm from Congress.”

The letter itself says it should be irrelevant to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) analysis of marijuana that 38 states and Washington, D.C. have legalized medical cannabis under state law.

“It is clear that HHS and DOJ chose the desired conclusion first and worked backwards, since the rule does not provide sufficient reason to move marijuana to schedule III,” the letter says, further alleging that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) “was not properly consulted in the drafting of the Proposed Rule.”

To that end, the letter amplified rumors that DEA is not on board with the administration’s rescheduling plan.

“DEA Administrator [Ann] Milgram did not sign the rule, and it states many times that DEA believes additional information is needed regarding the appropriate schedule for marijuana,” it says. “The Proposed Rule references DEA’s findings from 2016, when it rejected two petitions to remove marijuana from schedule I. It seems that DEA stands by its findings from 2016- all the more reason why this rule should not have been published without sign off from the DEA Administrator.”

Since the government’s rescheduling plan was made public in April, SAM and others have amplified rumors that DEA officials might oppose the proposed change—rumors that a top Biden administration official appeared to acknowledge last month.

Asked by a reporter whether there was resistance to the move at DEA, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra responded: “Talk to the DEA.”

“Our scientists reviewed the evidence,” he added. “FDA bases its action on the science and the evidence before us. We took action.”

The GOP lawmakers claim in the new letter that despite the popularity of medical marijuana nationwide, cannabis isn’t medicine.

“It remains the case that marijuana has no currently accepted medical use,” the GOP lawmakers’ letter continues. “The fact that states have labeled marijuana as ‘medicine’ does not change the nature of the drug.”

“It is clear that the Proposed Rule was not properly researched, circumvented DEA, and is merely responding to the popularity of marijuana and not the actual science,” the lawmakers said. “We urge you to withdraw the proposal and maintain marijuana as a schedule I drug.”

Sessions’s release further asserts that the rescheduling recommendation “ignores the increasing danger of high-potency marijuana, creating a high risk for public health threats such as youth overdoses, schizophrenia, and psychosis,” adding that the lawmakers’ letter claims that “THC is addictive at rates over 30% with long-term and permanent consequences on brain development.”

In addition to Session and Lankford, the letter was signed by Sens. John Thune (R-SD), Ted Budd (R-NC), Mitt Romney (R-UT), John Cornyn (R-TX), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Pete Ricketts (R-NE), Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Bill Hagerty (R-TN) along with Reps. Robert B. Aderholt (R-AL), Adrian Smith (R-NE), Andy Harris (R-MD), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), John Moolenaar (R-MI), Mike Bost (R-IL), David Kustoff (R-TN), Gary Palmer (R-AL), Hal Rogers (R-KY), Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN), Greg Pence (R-IN), Erin Houchin (R-IN), Josh Brecheen (R-OK), Chuck Edwards (NC) and Andrew S. Clyde (R-GA).

In a statement, Kevin Sabet, president of prohibitionist organization Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), said the group is “grateful for Rep. Sessions and Senator Lankford’s leadership to speak out about the public health threats of rescheduling marijuana.”

“The recent HHS decision flies in the face of scientific evidence and is a gift to Big Marijuana,” Sabet said. “Schedule III would enable this industry’s shameless pursuit of their addiction for profit model. Scientific evidence shows that marijuana has a high potential for abuse, which is only growing in the face of high-potency THC drug products, marketed by a predatory industry. Rescheduling marijuana during an election year makes clear that the nation’s health and safety is being undermined to try to gain a political advantage with the principal targets of the pot industry, namely young people.”

Since shortly after the government’s announcement of the rescheduling recommendation, SAM has pushed back on the science behind the finding that marijuana has a currently accepted medical use. The group has also said it’s weighing “all legal options” to challenge the proposed move while encouraging supporters to oppose the pending change.

“The studies they use to support medical use are a few very bad studies, basically. Literally a few very bad studies,” Sabet said during an online event last month.

The proposed rule to federally reschedule marijuana was officially posted in May, kicking off a public comment period that’s expected to elicit a major response with competing perspectives on the issue, with comments due by July 22.

Marijuana reform advocates and stakeholders have made clear that they intend to leverage the opportunity, with some planning to support the reclassification and others intending to call for descheduling cannabis altogether. Prohibitionists like SAM, meanwhile, are expected to oppose the incremental policy change both through lobbying and the threat of litigation.

Some Republican lawmakers in Congress have pushed back on the reform proposal or sought to delay the scheduling change. Earlier this week, a GOP-led House committee passed a funding bill that would block DOJ from using its funds to reschedule or deschedule cannabis.

In a report attached to separate legislation, the House Appropriations Committee also called on the Biden administration to account for how it arrived at the decision to reschedule marijuana, while additionally expressing concerns about cannabis-impaired driving and the market for intoxicating hemp-based cannabinoids.

GOP senators have separately tried to block the administration from rescheduling cannabis as part of a standalone bill filed last September, but that proposal has not received a hearing or vote.

Meanwhile, the House Rules Committee last month rejected multiple marijuana-related amendments to a series of spending bills, including proposals to ban certain federal agencies from testing job applicants for cannabis and prevent border patrol agents from seizing marijuana from state-licensed businesses.

The Appropriations Committee separately passed another spending bill last month that was amended to remove provisions safeguarding banks that work with state-licensed cannabis businesses. Members also reattached a section blocking Washington, D.C. from legalizing marijuana sales that was omitted from the base bill.

Read the full sign-on letter from GOP lawmakers below:

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Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.

The post GOP Lawmakers Push Justice Department To Reverse Course On Marijuana Rescheduling appeared first on Marijuana Moment.

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