Drug Policy Alliance Statement on HHS Recommendation To Reschedule Marijuana Under CSA To Schedule III

Statement August 31, 2023
Media Contact

Laini Madhubuti [email protected]

New York, NY – In response to the Biden Administration’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announcement today recommending rescheduling marijuana under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) from Schedule I to Schedule III, Cat Packer, Director of Drug Markets and Legal Regulation at the Drug Policy Alliance, released the following statement:

In 2021, President Biden promised to “decriminalize the use of cannabis and automatically expunge all prior cannabis use convictions,” as well as eliminate mandatory minimums for all drug convictions. However, rescheduling marijuana to Schedule III fails to fulfill these promises. While this announcement has significant symbolic value, a move to Schedule III would do little to address the most serious harms impacting communities that have been disproportionately targeted by marijuana criminalization. To be clear, the continued placement and control of marijuana under the CSA would mean that most marijuana conduct would remain illegal under federal law.

Unfortunately, rescheduling marijuana to Schedule III would allow the failures of criminalization to continue. State medical and adult-use marijuana programs will still remain federally illegal, meaning patients, consumers, and workers would remain subject to federal arrest; noncitizens would remain subject to deportation simply for possessing marijuana or working in the industry; and federal marijuana arrests and prosecutions will continue, previous arrests will not be expunged, and thousands will remain incarcerated in federal prison for marijuana violations. It also means that federal benefits, such as housing and nutritional assistance, will still be denied to certain people with previous marijuana convictions and the federal government will continue to be unable to foster a fair business environment that allows small and minority-owned marijuana businesses to compete with large corporate marijuana operators.

While we appreciate the historic nature of today’s announcement, rescheduling falls woefully short of President Biden’s promise and the relief our communities need today. We call on President Biden to actively work with Congress to pass comprehensive legislation such as the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA) (S.4591) that ends federal marijuana criminalization and repairs the harms caused by decades of racist enforcement of marijuana laws. Additionally, even while marijuana remains in Schedule I the President and his administrative agencies should work with advocates and those who have been directly impacted by marijuana criminalization to limit the harms of marijuana criminalization. These incremental actions could provide meaningful reform to those who have suffered the most under decades of racially discriminatory and class-based enforcement of marijuana criminalization.


About Drug Policy Alliance

The Drug Policy Alliance is the leading organization in the U.S. working to end the drug war, repair its harms, and build a non-punitive, equitable, and regulated drug market. We envision a world that embraces the full humanity of people, regardless of their relationship to drugs. We advocate that the regulation of drugs be grounded in evidence, health, equity, and human rights. In collaboration with other movements and at every policy level, we change laws, advance justice, and save lives. Learn more at drugpolicy.org.

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