The Lead

Fetterman, Warren lead call for DEA to deschedule marijuana

By: - January 31, 2024 5:37 pm

(Image via Pittsburgh City Paper)

U.S. Sens. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Ma.) along with 10 of their Democratic colleagues urged the federal government to remove marijuana from the federal list of controlled substances. 

In a letter on to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and U.S. Drug Enforcement (DEA) Administrator Anne Milgram, the senators called for the removal of marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). 

In Aug. 2023, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) recommended that marijuana be reclassified from Schedule I to Schedule III, putting it in a less restrictive category, however the senators believe marijuana should be completely descheduled. 

Marijuana is categorized under the same status as heroin, meaning there is “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States” and is currently in a more dangerous category than fentanyl or cocaine, according to the joint letter.

Patrick Nightingale, executive director of Pittsburgh NORML, a pro-cannabis legalization organization, explained that moving marijuana to Schedule III would mean the DEA would continue to have regulatory authority over the drug. But descheduling would remove marijuana from the CSA entirely, leaving states to set their own cannabis policies, including prohibiting it if they chose. 

The senators write that descheduling marijuana would be a “major step in undoing failed War on Drug policies and bringing sanity to national cannabis policy,” adding that the Biden administration “has a window of opportunity to deschedule marijuana that has not existed in decades.”

Marijuana is not legal for recreational use in Pennsylvania, although medical marijuana has been legal in the Keystone State since 2016. Multiple states bordering Pennsylvania have already legalized recreational use of marijuana. 

Fetterman has been a leading voice on marijuana legalization for years in Pennsylvania, since his time as Mayor of Braddock. During his successful campaign for Lt. Governor in 2018, he continued to promote his support for marijuana legalization and said that Pennsylvania should “go full-on Colorado” after he was endorsed by NORML PAC

In 2019, then-Lt. Gov. Fetterman visited all 67 counties in the commonwealth in 98 days for a statewide listening tour to hear Pennsylvanians opinion on the prospect of legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes.

Fetterman also spotlighted the issue during his successful 2022 campaign for U.S. Senate, selling popular T-shirts on his campaign website that read: “it’s high time that we get our sh*t together and legalize weed in PA + USA. More justice, jobs, revenue, and freedom.” When Biden pardoned certain marijuana offenses last month, Fetterman celebrated the decision.

Nightingale praised Fetterman’s continued focus on cannabis legalization. “His steadfast support for legalization has won the admiration of countless cannabis consumers and supporters of full legalization,” he said. 

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John Cole
John Cole

John Cole is a journalist based in Philadelphia. He's worked for various outlets such as The Northeast Times, PoliticsPA, and PCN. In these previous roles, he covered a wide range of topics from local civic association meetings to races across the commonwealth. He earned a degree in journalism from Temple University.

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