Senators Push for Marijuana Legalization, Despite Congressional Power

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) may reclassify marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), as the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommended last August. Democratic senators want to remove marijuana from the CSA’s schedules. However, the CSA incorporates international treaty obligations that prevent this change. Since 1970, marijuana has been listed in Schedule I of the CSA. The DEA has refused to reclassify marijuana, but last August, HHS reversed its longstanding position and recommended moving marijuana to Schedule III, allowing it to be prescribed. Senators like Elizabeth Warren and John Fetterman believe this change should be further advanced. However, the CSA gives the attorney general the authority to schedule, reschedule, and deschedule drugs in consultation with HHS, which complicates any attempt to deregulate marijuana. The United States is a signatory to the U.N. Single Convention, which requires strict control of cannabis. Rescheduling or descheduling marijuana would violate these demands, as well as the CSA. For these reasons, the reclassification of marijuana remains a difficult legal challenge.