DEA Asserts Final Authority Over Marijuana Scheduling, Despite HHS Recommendation

Marijuana Scheduling Authority: DEA’s Final Say

When it comes to the ever-evolving landscape of cannabis legalization in the United States, there’s one thing that’s crystal clear—the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) asserts its “final authority” over marijuana decisions, regardless of what the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommends. This revelation came to light in a recent sent to Rep. Earl Blumenauer, co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus. The ongoing review of marijuana scheduling is shrouded in complexity, but let’s break it down in a way that’s easy to understand.

The Scheduling Review Process

The journey to understanding the DEA’s stance on marijuana scheduling begins with a directive from President Joe Biden in October 2022. The directive initiated a scientific assessment by the HHS, which ultimately advised the DEA to consider moving marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). The HHS recommendation surfaced in August, prompting the DEA to embark on its own review.

Here’s where things get interesting—DEA’s letter to Rep. Blumenauer underscores that they hold the final authority to schedule, reschedule, or deschedule a drug under the CSA, regardless of HHS’s scientific and medical evaluation. In essence, the DEA is conducting its own review, and the outcome remains uncertain.

Lawmakers’ Plea and DEA’s Response

Before we delve deeper into the implications of this authority, let’s rewind a bit. Rep. Blumenauer and 30 other bipartisan lawmakers penned a letter to the DEA, urging them to consider the “merits” of legalization as part of their review. The lawmakers emphasized that merely shifting cannabis to Schedule III wouldn’t suffice, calling for a comprehensive approach to cannabis reform.

In response, the DEA provided a detailed account of the procedural aspects of the scheduling review. However, it refrained from addressing the lawmakers’ core arguments. The timeline for the completion of the review remains undisclosed, leaving many in anticipation, especially with the upcoming November elections.

DEA’s Authority and HHS’s Recommendation

While some believe that the DEA is likely to follow HHS’s recommendation based on past precedent, it’s important to reiterate—the DEA has the ultimate jurisdiction over the CSA. They possess the power to disregard the health agency’s advice, and they’ve made it clear in their response to lawmakers.

What’s perplexing to many is the lack of transparency regarding HHS’s justification for recommending cannabis to be moved to Schedule III. The agency has shared extensive documentation with the DEA, but these documents are highly redacted, offering little insight into the rationale behind the recommendation.

Diverse Perspectives and Voices

The cannabis policy has witnessed a multitude of voices and perspectives. 29 former U.S. attorneys recently urged the Biden administration to keep cannabis in Schedule I. Conversely, the governors of six states—Colorado, , New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Louisiana—called on the administration to reschedule marijuana by the end of the last year.

Meanwhile, six former DEA heads and five former White drug czars expressed opposition to HHS’s recommendation to reschedule marijuana. They even made claims about the relationship between drug schedules and criminal penalties, raising concerns about the potential impact of incremental reform.

On another front, advocates and lawmakers continue to push President Biden for more significant cannabis-related reforms. They want to see the scope of relief expanded and federal legalization explicitly supported.

Legislative Measures

In the realm of legislation, two GOP senators introduced a bill to prevent federal agencies from rescheduling cannabis without tacit approval from Congress. This legislative move underscores the significance of congressional involvement in the scheduling decision.

Additionally, a coalition of 14 Republican congressional lawmakers has urged the DEA to “reject” HHS’s recommendation and maintain cannabis in the most restrictive CSA category.

The Psychedelics Front

While cannabis takes stage, it’s worth noting that the DEA is also dealing with . The agency recently revisited its to ban two psychedelics after abandoning the initial scheduling proposal in 2022. This has sparked another debate, with researchers and advocates emphasizing the therapeutic potential of these compounds.

Challenges in Georgia

To add to the mix, the DEA has warned Georgia pharmacies against dispensing THC, as it remains a Schedule I drug. This warning comes after Georgia became the first to permit pharmacies to sell medical marijuana. Nearly 120 facilities have applied to sell cannabis , highlighting the complexities and challenges associated with marijuana policies at the state and federal levels.

In Conclusion

As we navigate the ever-shifting terrain of cannabis policies, it’s clear that the DEA holds the final say in marijuana scheduling. While HHS’s recommendation may provide insight, it’s the DEA’s jurisdiction that ultimately shapes the future of cannabis in the United States.

In the coming months, all eyes will be on the DEA’s decision and the potential impact it may have on the broader cannabis reform movement. One thing remains certain—the conversation around marijuana scheduling authority is far from over, and it will continue to evolve as policies shift and perspectives change.


  • Q: What initiated the DEA’s review of marijuana scheduling?
  • A: President Joe Biden issued a directive in October 2022 that kickstarted the review process.
  • Q: What is the key takeaway from the DEA’s response to lawmakers?
  • A: The DEA emphasized its final authority in scheduling decisions, regardless of HHS’s recommendations.
  • Q: How are lawmakers and advocates influencing the debate on cannabis scheduling?
  • A: Lawmakers are urging comprehensive cannabis reform, while advocates are pushing for federal legalization and expanded relief.
  • Q: What’s the significance of the DEA’s engagement with psychedelics?
  • A: The DEA’s revisiting of psychedelics scheduling has sparked discussions about their therapeutic potential.

*Thanks to the original author for reporting this update on Marijuana Scheduling Authority.*

Rosemary Puffman
I'm Rosemary, a staunch supporter of cannabis legalization and its potential benefits. My roles as a writer, cannabis entrepreneur, and informed investor allow me to contribute to the evolving narrative around cannabis. Through my writing, I aim to destigmatize and educate, while my business ventures and strategic investments align with my belief in the positive impact of responsible cannabis use.

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