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Is the DEA pushing back on rescheduling?

Plus, the cannabis world reacts to the State of the Union

Good morning.

Our Editor-in-Chief Jeremy will be (finally) shutting his laptop and enjoying the Costa Rican sun and waves for a few days this week, after writing today’s newsletter. 

You’ll be in good hands with Jay for the rest of the week. I’ll see you all back in New York.

- Jeremy Berke & Jay Rosenthal

💡What’s the big deal?

Wall Street Journal reports DEA is in turmoil over rescheduling

What happened: Under President Joe Biden’s direction, the Department of Health and Human Services last year recommended moving cannabis from Schedule I — drugs considered to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use, like heroin — to the much less restrictive Schedule III.

As Cultivated readers surely now know, the ball is firmly in the Drug Enforcement Administration’s court. But the DEA is in turmoil over the decision, the Wall Street Journal reports

Why it matters: Moving cannabis to Schedule III, while not a panacea and far from full legalization, would go a long way to normalizing the industry. But it’s still anyone’s guess when, or if, it will actually happen. 

And Biden has now promised publicly — during the State of the Union no less — that he wants to fulfill his campaign promises of cannabis reform. And it’s clear that cannabis is popular among young voters, so Biden surely wants to go into election season with a win. 

What they’re saying: DEA Administrator Anne Milgram told WSJ that the agency’s review is ongoing. But other DEA officials said that they were concerned about high-potency cannabis, and that the medical uses were still unproven and they’d like to see more research about cannabis’s long term health effects.

And former Trump-era DEA Administrator Timothy Shea said that in his view, “the science does not support rescheduling marijuana.”

Our take: The typical timeline for a DEA rescheduling decision is around nine years, so things are actually progressing faster than we expect, as counterintuitive as that may seem.

The industry and cannabis advocates surely want to see full legalization. That would mean removing cannabis completely from the list of federally controlled substances, and regulating cannabis like alcohol.

But if there is this much pushback to even moving it to the less-restrictive Schedule III, we’re guessing full-scale legalization, or even decriminalization, is a long way off. 

What’s next: Plugged in reporters like The New York Times’ Ashley Southall and Green Market Report’s John Schroyer have said April has long been the timeline for the DEA’s decision on rescheduling, though things are far from certain as both reports note. 

We’re still waiting, and we’ll expect a lot of reports both for and against rescheduling in the meantime. Like many things, we’ll know when we know. 


👊 Quick hits

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has a “big problem” with Florida’s legalization initiative, and says he doesn’t like the smell of cannabis and that the proposal doesn’t contain enough regulatory power

MedMen is shutting down all but two of its California stores, as the once high-flying cannabis company appears to be slowly going out of business. The stock went to zero in January.

Politico reporter Natalie Fertig has a great thread on where Sen. Mitch McConnell’s potential replacements stand on cannabis reform. 

Ohio’s cannabis legalization is putting over 400 police dogs out of work. We say let the good boys and girls get adopted by some great families and enjoy life. 

A Washington bill would redirect non-hazardous cannabis waste to more sustainable uses, like hempcrete, compost, and other hemp-based goods.

Biden’s cannabis promises at SOTU receive mixed reviews

What happened: As you all know, President Biden made history by talking about cannabis reform during last week’s State of the Union address. If you missed it, here’s what he said

And while many cannabis industry participants and advocates cheered the move, others said Biden didn’t go far enough — and hasn’t yet lived up to his campaign promises. 

What they’re saying: The US Cannabis Council, an industry trade organization, applauded Biden for bringing cannabis into the national conversation.

“The US Cannabis Council applauds President Biden for highlighting cannabis reform as an issue of national concern during his State of the Union address. The President has issued historic pardons for nonviolent cannabis offenses and initiated a groundbreaking review of the status of cannabis under federal law. Tonight's remarks before a national audience signal the President's ongoing commitment to advancing cannabis reform,” David Culver, the group’s SVP of public affairs, said.

Cannabis firms like Dutchie, LeafLink, and Weedmaps also cheered Biden’s statement. 

“While many states have made significant strides to legalize cannabis and correct some of the wrongs of prohibition, the industry can’t fully thrive until there are changes on the federal level. Moving cannabis to a Schedule III classification will be a critical milestone for the industry, but it’s just the beginning of federal cannabis reforms that are necessary to help business owners succeed and provide greater choice and access to consumers,” Bryan Barash, Dutchie’s deputy general counsel, said. 

While this statement from a president — and the actions he has taken to pardon nearly 13,000 people and initiate a cannabis scheduling review — is historic, the work is far from done. The reality is that not one of the estimated 3,000 people in federal prison for cannabis-related offenses has been released,” The Last Prisoner Project, an advocacy group, said. 

They said that Biden should use his clemency power to grant more commutations, and that Congress should create a federal expungement mechanism.

A conservative cannabis advocacy group, the American Cannabis Collective, excoriated Biden for what they see as his failure to push cannabis reform through. 

“Voters deserve better, minorities deserve better, patients deserve better, cannabis businesses deserve better than more failed campaign promises, failed policies and rhetoric that is inconsistent with the truth. This is no longer Nixon’s Drug War. This is the Biden and Harris Drug War having failed in three plus years to end it,” said Gretchen Gailey, the group’s co-founder. 

Back up: Here’s Biden’s campaign promise on cannabis reform:

🎒 What we’re reading

Using cannabis safely | Dr. Peter Grinspoon

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