Bipartisan Group of White House and DEA Heads Urge Biden Administration to Reject Rescheduling of Marijuana

Bipartisan Group of former DEA Administrators & ONDCP Directors Cite Public Health, Lack of Medical Benefits, and Industry Practices Among Concerns

(WASHINGTON, DC) – A bipartisan group of 11 former DEA Administrators and ONDCP Directors, who served in every administration from Presidents Nixon to Obama, has penned a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Administrator Anne Milgram, urging them to reject the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) recommendation to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule III drug.

“Moving marijuana to Schedule III would supersize the cannabis industry in the United States by allowing them to evade IRS Section 280E and deduct business expenses,” the letter states. “Not only would this mean that marijuana corporations would be able to deduct expenses for advertisements appealing to youth and the sale of kid-friendly marijuana gummies, but it would also dramatically increase the industry’s commercialization ability.”

Among the chief concerns detailed in the letter by the nation’s foremost drug policy and enforcement experts is the fact that “…recent research has shown that marijuana is more addictive than ever, with increasingly potent marijuana becoming the norm.” They strongly opposed rescheduling, stating there is existing evidence fails to support such a change.

“The nation’s foremost drug policy experts agree, rescheduling marijuana would be a dangerous move at a time of serious addiction and mental health crises. This move by the Biden Administration reeks of political pandering, since there is no legal argument for rescheduling that can stand up to scrutiny. It’s ridiculous to think that rescheduling will be anything but a gift to an industry that’s known to prey on young people, low-income communities, and communities of color,” said Dr. Kevin Sabet, the president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) and a former White House drug policy advisor to Presidents Obama, Bush and Clinton, who organized the letter from the former officials.

The letter goes on to state, “Schedule I drugs are those with no accepted medical use. The FDA has not approved marijuana for medical use because no double-blind, published studies show safety and efficacy for raw marijuana; thus, it must remain a Schedule I drug. Indeed, recent research has shown that marijuana is more addictive than ever, with increasingly potent marijuana becoming the norm.”

Dr. Sabet concurred, saying, “Time and again, we’ve seen how the marijuana industry is using the same predatory business model perfected by Big Tobacco to hook a new generation of regular drug users. We know today’s high-potency THC drugs are associated with lower IQ, psychosis, depression, suicidality, motor impairment, psychosis and schizophrenia, among other consequences. We should be protecting people from these dangerous drugs, not giving the industry a chance to make more money at the expense of public health and safety.”

A copy of the letter, signed by DEA Administrators Michele Leonhart (2007-2015), Karen Tandy (2003 – 2007), Robert C. Bonner (1990 – 1993), John C. Lawn (1985 – 1990), Peter B. Bensinger (1976 – 1981), and John R. Bartles Jr. (1973 – 1975), and Directors R. Gil Kerlikowske (2009 – 2014), John P. Walters (2001 – 2009), Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey (USA, Ret) (1996 – 2001), Robert Martinez (1991 – 1993), and William J. Bennet (1989 – 1990), can be found here.