DEA Pushes Back Against Cannabis Rescheduling

On May 16, the Justice Department formally moved to reclassify marijuana as a less dangerous drug, marking a significant step towards federal legalization. However, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has been a holdout in this process, according to a report by the Associated Press.

The decision to reclassify marijuana was reportedly made without the support of the DEA, with Attorney General Merrick Garland signing the order instead of DEA Chief Anne Milgram. According to the AP News report, the move was revealed by Milgram to top deputies in March in a so-called “Marijuana Meeting.” 

It has raised concerns among current and former DEA officials, who believe that politics may be at play and that the Justice Department is prioritizing the Biden administration’s re-election campaign over public safety.

Internal records indicate that the DEA sought additional scientific input to determine whether marijuana has an accepted medical use, a key requirement for reclassification. However, these concerns were overruled by Justice Department attorneys, who deemed the DEA’s criteria “impermissibly narrow.”

“It’s crystal clear to me that the Justice Department hijacked the rescheduling process, placing politics above public safety,” Derek Maltz, a retired agent who once headed the DEA’s Special Operations Division, told AP News. “If there’s scientific evidence to support this decision, then so be it. But you’ve got to let the scientists evaluate it.”

The absence of Milgram’s signature on the order suggests the DEA’s opposition to the reclassification, according to former DEA Administrator Tim Shea. The dissonance within the federal government highlights the ongoing debate over the risks posed by cannabis, despite a growing number of states legalizing its medical and recreational use.

The Justice Department defended its decision, saying that it was legally required to follow the scientific and medical findings of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which recommended reclassifying marijuana last year. However, even within HHS, there are conflicting statements regarding the risks and benefits of marijuana use.

The DEA, to show “significant deference” to HHS’ medical recommendations, will now take public comment on the plan before a review by an administrative judge and the publishing of a final rule. Because of this, there could be a long way ahead between now and the actual rescheduling.


Information for this story was found via the Associated Press, and the sources and companies mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to the organizations discussed. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.

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