Yes, you read the lede right. Republicans are asking Biden, a Democrat, to reschedule weed once and for all.
Representatives Dave Joyce (R-OH) and Don Young (R-AK) both serve as co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus. They recently sent a letter to Biden asking for rescheduling and claiming the issue is “a matter of public health.”
Despite all the work that has been happening at the state level to legalize medical and recreational cannabis, it is still classified federally as a Schedule I drug in the U.S., as most cannabis enthusiasts well know. This puts it in the same category with drugs like heroin that are known to be much more harmful. The classification means that cannabis has no medical value and a high potential for abuse in the country’s eyes.
“As a Schedule I substance, cannabis is not accepted for medical use on the federal level, which has caused significant research restrictions and continues to thwart the treatment of a wide range of patients, including those suffering from cancer as well as veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and people living with Multiple Sclerosis and seizure disorders,” the letter explains regarding the status of cannabis.
However, while this isn’t just a desire from these Republican Congressmen, but from the rest of the U.S. as well, it isn’t as easy as getting Biden to sign something into effect. The secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services or another outside party first has to file a petition, and then the attorney general has to review that petition. The attorney general can also choose to waive that right and let the DEA review the petition instead.
The attorney general can also request a scientific review directly from the Department of Health and Human Services. If this happens, the FDA would assess cannabis before submitting a review to the Justice Department. Then, the last step after all that work is a formal move to reschedule.
Republicans Want Rescheduling
While that is a lot of work, even Republicans believe it is high time. The letter claims that “initial research has shown cannabis to be a significantly less addictive yet effective pain-management alternative” to opioids.
“As our nation continues to grapple with the opioid epidemic and the record-breaking death toll it caused amid the COVID-19 pandemic, we cannot afford to sideline safer alternatives in the name of arcane regulations,” it continues. “Each day cannabis remains overly scheduled, patients and researchers across the United States continue to lose access to life-saving therapies and data.”
And Joyce and Young’s cannabis activism doesn’t end there. They also recently filed a bill to federally deschedule cannabis on their own.
The bill, called The Common Sense Cannabis Reform for Veterans, Small Businesses, and Medical Professionals Act, goes a bit further than past proposed bills, as language actually specifies protections for federal studies into medical cannabis and mandates for that to happen within a certain period. It does, however, fail to include social justice provisions that would help heal the wounds of the War on Drugs.
While rescheduling is a big project, and the Republican lawmakers speaking out in this case could stand to put more focus on social reform, they are still sending a strong message by standing up to the president and demanding he reschedule cannabis.
Biden is still anti adult-use cannabis, as he reiterated last week when the topic of legalization came up. There may still be some serious work to do before cannabis strides are made under this administration.
Addison Herron-Wheeler is co-publisher and owner of OUT FRONT Magazine, and web editor of New Noise Magazine. She covers cannabis and heavy metal, and is author of Wicked Woman: Women in Metal from the 1960s to Now and Respirator, a collection of short stories.