During her recent visit to 'The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,' Senator Elizabeth Warren shared her advocacy for the complete removal of cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, rather than merely reclassifying it from Schedule I to Schedule III. This discussion emerges in a potentially landmark year for cannabis in the United States, as both advocates and consumers eagerly await the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) decision on whether to reclassify cannabis.
Following a recommendation by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in December 2023, anticipation for the DEA's final verdict is high. Amidst speculation of an imminent announcement from the White House regarding this review, an official from the Biden administration has clarified that no announcements are expected soon.
As the cannabis community continues its hopeful wait, numerous advocates and lawmakers argue that simply reclassifying cannabis does not sufficiently address the issue, advocating instead for its complete descheduling. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is a prominent figure in this movement, having recently discussed her position on 'The Late Show.'
Championing Cannabis Descheduling
Following a discussion on economic issues, Stephen Colbert shifted the conversation to a letter spearheaded by Senator Warren and Senator John Fetterman (D-PA), which was also signed by other key Democrats including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT). This letter calls for the DEA and the Biden administration to fully deschedule cannabis, stating that while reclassifying it as Schedule III would mark progress, it would not ameliorate the most severe consequences of the current classification.
The legislators emphasized the negative impact of cannabis's current classification on communities, highlighting its misalignment with state laws and public sentiment. In response to Colbert's question about the difference between descheduling and legalization—and a humorous inquiry about her current state—Warren explained that while legalization requires a functional Congress, descheduling is a viable alternative that does not necessitate congressional approval.
Descheduling vs. Rescheduling: A Critical Distinction
Descheduling cannabis would remove it entirely from the list of controlled substances, eliminating criminal penalties and effectively legalizing it at the federal level. This move would necessitate congressional action to establish a regulatory framework, potentially treating cannabis similarly to alcohol, with states crafting their laws.
Conversely, reclassifying cannabis to Schedule III would maintain its status as a controlled substance without legalizing it federally or permitting states to create their cannabis markets. However, it would ease research restrictions and allow cannabis businesses to claim federal tax deductions, currently prohibited.
Warren's stance advocates for descheduling to resolve conflicts and streamline regulations, suggesting that cannabis should be regulated like alcohol. This proposal has garnered support, highlighting the ongoing debate over the future of cannabis legislation in the United States.