GOP Senators Challenge Marijuana Rescheduling, Citing International Agreements

Republican Senators, including Mitt Romney of Utah, Jim Risch of Idaho, and Pete Ricketts of Nebraska, have voiced opposition to a proposed bid to reschedule marijuana under federal drug laws. In a letter addressed to Drug Enforcement Administrator Anne Milgram, the senators urged the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to reject the Biden administration’s proposal to reclassify cannabis, citing concerns over potential violations of international treaties.

Currently categorized as a Schedule I substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), marijuana is deemed to have no accepted medical value and a high potential for abuse. The senators, all members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, emphasized the importance of basing any rescheduling decision on scientific evidence rather than political preferences.

The senators highlighted that cannabis is subject to international control under the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, a treaty ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1967. They pointed out that the United Nations International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) has criticized efforts to legalize marijuana in other countries, viewing them as violations of the treaty.

Under the current international framework, the United States is obligated to implement controls over drugs covered by the Single Convention, including marijuana. The senators stressed that any changes to the scheduling of marijuana must align with these treaty commitments.

The letter also raised questions about the potential impact of rescheduling marijuana on international drug treaty provisions and requested additional information from the DEA. It cited concerns about the health risks associated with marijuana use, including links to heart attacks, strokes, and psychotic disorders.

While the senators argued that rescheduling marijuana could jeopardize compliance with international obligations, legal experts like Jason Adelstone of Vicente LLP countered these claims. Adelstone noted that moving marijuana to Schedule III, a category with moderate to low potential for dependence, could facilitate medical and scientific access to the substance, aligning with the objectives of the Single Convention.

As the DEA reviews the proposal to reschedule marijuana, the agency has yet to announce a decision or timeline for action. The debate surrounding marijuana rescheduling reflects broader discussions about drug policy, international agreements, and public health considerations.


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