Rep. Matt Gaetz Questions DEA Administrator On Cannabis Descheduling Before Committee Hearing
Today, Congressman Matt Gaetz questioned DEA Administrator Anne Milgram before the House Judiciary Committee on why the Biden Administration has not de-scheduled cannabis from the Schedule 1 drug classification list. The hearing, ‘Oversight of the Drug Enforcement Administration,” examined the administration’s operations, including its handling of America’s unprecedented fentanyl and opioid crisis.
In his allotted time, Rep. Matt Gaetz discussed the topic of cannabis descheduling. The unedited transcript of his testimony with Anne Milgram, Administrator, Drug Enforcement Administration, is as follows:
Rep. Matt Gaetz (MG): So one reason people die from fentanyl is because they get addicted to opioids and get poisoned, right?
DEA Administrator Anne Milgram (AM): Yes.
MG: And one reason that people get addicted to opioids is because they get prescribed opioids and that prescription turns into an addiction, right?
AM: So, I would absolutely say the beginning of the opioid epidemic started with unlawful prescribing.
MG: Not everyone but that’s a pretty large swath of the problem and one of the reasons people get prescribed opioids is to deal with chronic pain, right?
MG: And throughout the country, there are people who use medical marijuana to treat chronic pain as an alternative to opioids, right?
AM: I know a number of states have passed laws, yes, related to medical marijuana.
MG: So, I guess my question is this: why has the bide Administration not taken marijuana off the list of schedule one drugs?
AM: So Congressman, as you know, the president had sent a letter to the Secretary of HHS (Department of Health & Human Services) and to the attorney general to to ask for the scheduling-descheduling process to begin. It’s now with HHS they are in that process. They start and then they send it to DEA. We have not received it yet.
MG: That’s encouraging. When do you expect to receive that recommendation from HHS?
AM: I have not heard of a timeline from them, so I don’t—I don’t know.
MG: That’s unsettling. Isn’t it I mean when you don’t even know a timeline it doesn’t really make it seem like something’s front of mind.
AM: We have constant conversations with HHS and with FDA, but we have not been given a specific timeline.
MG: Will you leave this briefing and encourage HHS to give you a timeline on getting that information to you?
AM: I will ask.
MG: Thank you. And when you receive the work product from HHS, is there any basis that DEA would have to oppose the descheduling of marijuana as a schedule one drug?
AM: So, the way the scheduling process works under the law and the regulations is HHS does a review. They then send it to DEA we then do what is known as an eight-factor review. There’s an opportunity for public comment as well and so we go through that part of the process. And so. obviously we start with what HHS has provided us we then go through our own review and a public comment process. and then we come to a scheduling decision/
MG: And just share with me with the country what your perspective is on what the outcome of that should be?
AM: Well, because I I couldn’t prejudge it at this point in time I have not seen…
MG: Do you have a—do you have a personal view on whether or not marijuana should be a schedule one drug?
AM: As the head of the DEA, I will ultimately be responsible for signing off on what the scheduling is.
MG: Will you consider in the analysis that’s being done—the studies that pretty extensively show that in states where there is medical marijuana access. there’s a lower rate of prescribing these opioids that then can lead to addiction which then can lead to the the deaths that we’ve seen.
AM: You have my full commitment, Congressman, that I will keep an open mind I will look at all the research. I expect that we will get you know additional public comment or research that comes in, and I will look at all of it.
MG: And Mrs. Chairman, I’m seeking unanimous consent to enter the record of study conducted by two PHDs—Marie Hayes and Mark Brown—that looked at the prescribing of opioids in states with medical marijuana programs, and indeed found that states with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8% lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate.
(background speaker: without objection).
I really hope we get this done. We’re two years into the Biden Administration, and I honestly had hoped that by now, we would have already descheduled marijuana from the schedule one list. Maybe talk to me a little bit about the challenges that DEA has in this patchwork system where marijuana is federally illegal, but then hemp is allowed under the Farm Bill. And then these you got people operating under the color of law in all these states. I mean doesn’t that seem like the least effective way to go about this?
AM: If I could speak more generally about our diversion program which is the the unit that controls all of the scheduling um all these questions you’re raising uh this is an important part of our work at DEA right now is to look at the existing regulations and the existing processes.
MG: But it’s hard right? I just want you—I want to draw from you the obvious admission that different states having different programs, and then the federal government having sort of an incongruent regulatory system with the hemp law and schedule one being maintained—that that is confusing.
AM: And we deal with it, Congressman, all the time.
MG: And it makes it harder, right? The fact that it’s patchwork does probably make the job of DEA agents harder.
AM: Even look at xylazine right now, which is something we’re having conversations about is lacing fentanyl. It is certain states have now moved to schedule xylazine. It has not yet been scheduled in the federal government, so these are challenges we face all the time.
MG: I would just—I would just also add there’s a huge research potential to unlock if we get this right. And I certainly hope that we do, and I appreciate your commitment to ‘Guild The Lilly’ at HHS and get that work product in your hands. Thank you Mr. Chairman.