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Senator Advocates for Rescheduling Marijuana to Promote Research and Address Racial Injustices

In a significant move, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has penned a compelling letter to Anne Milgram, Administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), urging for a review and rescheduling of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Dated November 9, 2023, this letter marks a crucial step towards reevaluating the legal status of marijuana in the United States.

Senator Gillibrand's letter emphasizes her belief that marijuana should ideally be descheduled completely. However, as an interim measure, she strongly advocates for its rescheduling from Schedule I to Schedule III. This shift is supported by scientific and medical considerations and follows an administrative process initiated by President Biden in October 2022 to review marijuana's Schedule I status.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have reportedly recommended this rescheduling to the DEA. The Senator urges both the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the DEA to give full consideration to the FDA's recommendation in their decision-making process.

Currently, marijuana is classified under Schedule I, which is reserved for substances with no recognized medical utility and a high potential for abuse. This classification not only places marijuana in the same category as heroin and LSD but also ranks it higher than drugs like medical fentanyl and methamphetamine, which are causing a significant public health crisis.

This Schedule I classification, as Gillibrand points out, has substantially hindered the collection of essential data needed for informed decisions regarding marijuana's legal status. Marijuana, she argues, has a lower potential for harm compared to other Schedule I substances and is virtually impossible to fatally overdose on, unlike drugs such as cocaine or heroin.

Rescheduling marijuana to Schedule III would recognize its "accepted medical use" and pave the way for it to be legally available by prescription. This move would stimulate investments and research into its medical applications, which have already proven effective in treating conditions like chronic pain, nerve pain, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Moreover, Senator Gillibrand commends the Biden Administration's commitment to addressing the systemic and racial injustices perpetuated by federal marijuana policies. She highlights how these policies have disproportionately impacted minority communities, particularly Black and Brown individuals, through selective policing and racial profiling. This has led to higher arrest rates and harsher sentencing for people of color, despite comparable usage rates across different racial groups.

Criminal records for marijuana possession, as the Senator notes, create unnecessary barriers to employment, housing, and education, contributing to cycles of multigenerational poverty.

Senator Gillibrand's letter is a powerful appeal for the DEA to swiftly align with the FDA and HHS recommendations and reschedule marijuana. This action, she believes, is essential not only to facilitate medical research but also to rectify the deep-seated racial disparities that have long plagued the nation. She concludes by expressing her readiness to collaborate in correcting these long-standing policies, underscoring the urgency and importance of this issue.

Letter attached below:

Download PDF • 97KB


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