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Former DEA Head Says Marijuana Rescheduling ‘Reflects The Reality’ Of Public Support For Reform

A former Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) head says the agency’s marijuana rescheduling proposal is “understandable” because it “reflects the reality” of public opinion toward the medical value of cannabis—even if he personally has concerns about the broader move toward reform.

In an interview with Fox News this week, former DEA Administrator Asa Hutchinson also said it “absolutely looks like” the agency will follow through with moving marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

“Whenever we see over a dozen states now have medical marijuana, clearly there’s a movement for reclassification,” he said. “And so it’s not a surprise to me.”

“I think it reflects the reality of today’s both culture but also the public sentiment. That’s most significant,” Hutchinson, a Republican who also served as governor of Arkansas, said. “And while the medical community still has not reached the conclusion that marijuana is beneficial for medical purposes, the public has reached the conclusion that it is and so the reclassification is understandable.”

He stressed that while rescheduling would represent a “dramatic change,” it’s important for people to understand that a Schedule III reclassification would not legalize it. It might lower certain penalties for cannabis-related activity, but “it will remain illegal.”

Notably, while Hutchinson was known for taking an aggressive enforcement approach to marijuana while running DEA, he acknowledged in the new interview that its Schedule I status inhibited investigation, and so rescheduling means “there’s going to be a lot more studies.”

“It will be easier to study, and hopefully that will be beneficial over the long term,” he said.

For context, during his time as DEA administrator from 2001 to 2003, Hutchinson earned the ire of advocates for authorizing federal raids against state-legal medical cannabis providers in several California jurisdictions, including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Humboldt County, El Dorado County and Ventura County.

The former administrator, who also mounted an unsuccessful bid for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, was additionally asked about congressional marijuana reform proposals, including a cannabis banking bill and newly reintroduced legalization proposal.

“Well the question is: Does society want another harmful product that has increased usage among the public and particularly young people?” Hutchinson said. “It’s granted statistically that whenever you move toward legalization or regulatory environment, you take away the legal penalties, the usage is going to go up.”

To that end, he said he hopes any plans to fully deschedule marijuana are “put way off into the future.”

“This gives us an opportunity, as a Schedule III, to actually study it and see more of the long-term health issues that are involved here and then make a wise decision down the road,” he said. “In my view, there’s ample evidence that this continues to be harmful, addictive and and that we should not legalize it, and that’s what happens if you take it off of a regulated substance.”

Meanwhile, the top Democrat in the US House said on Wednesday that the Biden administration’s move to reschedule marijuana is a “step in the right direction,” but it should be followed up with congressional action such as passing the legalization bill Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) filed.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, a Republican senator said this week that marijuana is a “gateway drug,” and Democrats’ moves to legalize it reflect “pro-criminal, anti-American policies” that will “stimulate more crime on American streets .” He also argued that cannabis banking legislation “facilitates an entire infrastructure and an ecosystem for more drug usage in America.”

Former Biden Cabinet Member Is ‘Concerned’ About Marijuana Legalization

Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.

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