Marijuana Moment: Lawmakers, Advocates And Stakeholders React To DEA’s Historic Marijuana Rescheduling Decision, With Many Calling For Bolder Reform

Published  on April 30, 2024

By Kyle Jaeger 

The Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) decision to reschedule marijuana is being met with relief, elation, commendations—and criticism from advocates who have been quick to point out that the modest reform does not mean cannabis will be federally legalized or that President Joe Biden’s campaign pledge to at least decriminalize will be fulfilled.

Lawmakers, advocates, stakeholders and opponents have seized upon reports that DEA agreed with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommendation to move marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

By and large, the reactions are positive. After all, this marks the first time that DEA has recognized the medical value and relatively low abuse potential of cannabis since prohibition was codified more than 50 years ago. The scheduling review, directed by Biden, resulted in a determination that stands to free up research barriers, let state-licensed marijuana businesses take federal tax deductions and more.

Moving cannabis to another schedule will not legalize it, however. Participants in state cannabis markets would continue to run afoul of federal law, and existing criminal penalties for certain marijuana-related activity would remain in force. And that’s a point that justice- and equity-centered advocates have continued to emphasize.

Here’s how people are reacting to DEA’s reported rescheduling decision:

Lawmakers and Elected Officials

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY)

“It is great news that DEA is finally recognizing that restrictive and draconian cannabis laws need to change to catch up to what science and the majority of Americans have said loud and clear,” the majority leader said.

“While this rescheduling announcement is a historic step forward, I remain strongly committed to continuing to work on legislation like the SAFER Banking Act as well as the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, which federally deschedules cannabis by removing it from the Controlled Substances Act,” he said.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR)

“After decades of the federal government being dug in on prohibition, moving cannabis to Schedule III would be a huge shift in policy and signal to the American people that the days of reefer madness are coming to an end,” Wyden said. “Medical research will open up and legal small businesses will no longer be treated unjustly like criminals under the inequitable 280E tax provision—a provision I’ve been working for years to repeal

“I’m not going to let today’s news slow this movement down, because there’s more to be done to rectify the harms of the failed War on Drugs,” the senator said. Cannabis should ultimately be descheduled with strong federal regulations put in place to protect public health and safety. Leader Schumer, Senator Booker and I have just the bill to do it.”

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)

“If today’s reporting proves true, we will be one step closer to ending the failed war on drugs,” Blumenauer, founding co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, said. “Marijuana was scheduled more than 50 years ago based on stigma, not science. The American people have made clear in state after state that cannabis legalization is inevitable. The Biden-Harris Administration is listening.”

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA)

Reps. Dave Joyce (R-OH) and Brian Mast (R-FL)

“Today’s decision breaks a nearly 80-year stalemate in regards to cannabis, opening the door for it to be used for medicinal and research purposes. Rescheduling means cannabis will be an option for veterans and adults living with chronic diseases, including epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and opioid use disorder,” the GOP co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus said. “This is an important step, but more needs to be done.”

“Millions of Americans have had opportunities for stable housing and employment foreclosed due to petty and non-violent cannabis-related offenses, including in jurisdictions that have since legalized the substance. Further, access to regulated and affordable medicinal cannabis remains out of reach for millions of patients, including veterans,” they said. “We must develop a regulatory framework that protects children but ensures the safe growth, manufacturing, prescription, sale, and consumption of cannabis by adults. We look forward to working with the agencies on this issue in the coming months.”

Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC)

In an interview with The Dales Report hours after the news broke, Mace said “it’s giving an element of hope to people who’ve been in this space for a really long time [and] who’ve invested all of their talent and treasure because they believe in the plant.”

“I think it’s a real grain of hope because, up until this point, it’s been BS,” she said. “This is a step in the right direction.”

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D)

“I am thrilled by the Biden Administration’s decision to begin the process of finally rescheduling cannabis, following the lead of Colorado and 37 other states that have already legalized it for medical or adult use, correcting decades of outdated federal policy,” Polis said. “This action is good for Colorado businesses and our economy, it will improve public safety, and will support a more just and equitable system for all.”

“We look forward to when Colorado businesses will continue to safely fulfill the consumer demand without facing additional safety challenges and unnecessary financial burden that 280E tax provisions created,” he said.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)

Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA)

Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-CO)

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)

Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV)

Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN)

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)

Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA)

Sen. James Lankford (R-OK)

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN)

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA)

Rep., Troy Carter (D-LA)

Rep. David Trone (D-MD)

Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD)

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN)

Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY)

Rep. Dwight Evans (D-PA)

Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI)

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)

Rep. Becca Balint (D-VT)

Rep. Rep. Nikki Budzinski (D-IL)

Rep. Chris Deluzio (D-PA)

Rep. Brittany Pettersen (D-CO)

Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party

Advocates and associations


“It is significant for these federal agencies, and the DEA and FDA in particular, to acknowledge publicly for the first time what many patients and advocates have known for decades: that cannabis is a safe and effective therapeutic agent for tens of millions of Americans,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said.

“The goal of any federal cannabis policy reform ought to be to address the existing, untenable divide between federal marijuana policy and the cannabis laws of the majority of US states,” he said. “Rescheduling the cannabis plant to Schedule III fails to adequately address this conflict, as existing state legalization laws—both adult use and medical—will continue to be in conflict with federal regulations, thereby perpetuating the existing divide between state and federal marijuana policies.”

Marijuana Policy Project (MPP)

“This is a positive step forward for federal cannabis policy, however it is a rather modest step given the strong support among American voters for comprehensive cannabis reform,” Matthew Schweich, executive director of MPP, said. “It is important to acknowledge that this rescheduling would not affect the criminalization of medical cannabis patients and cannabis consumers under state laws – so we must continue the work of enacting sensible and fair cannabis legalization and medical cannabis laws through state legislatures and ballot initiatives.”

Drug Policy Alliance (DPA)

“Supporting federal marijuana decriminalization means supporting the removal of marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, not changing its scheduling,” Cat Packer, director of drug markets and legal regulation at DPA, said.

“We all deserve a federal framework for marijuana that upholds the health, wellbeing, and safety of our communities–particularly Black communities who have borne the brunt of our country’s racist enforcement of marijuana laws,” she said. “Rescheduling marijuana is not a policy solution for federal marijuana criminalization or its harms, and it won’t address the disproportionate impact that it has had on Black and Brown communities.”

“The individuals, families and communities adversely impacted by federal marijuana criminalization deserve more. Workers in the marijuana industry, people who use marijuana, all of us deserve more. Congress and the Biden Administration have a responsibility to take actions now to bring about marijuana reform that meaningfully improves the lives of people who have been harmed by decades of criminalization. Descheduling and legalizing marijuana the right way isn’t just good policy, it’s popular with voters, too.”

National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA)

“Moving marijuana out of its absurd classification as a Schedule I drug is long overdue and we applaud the administration for finally acknowledging the therapeutic value that has been widely accepted by the medical community and millions of medical cannabis patients for decades,” NCIA CEO Aaron Smith said.

“While this is undoubtedly a very positive first step, rescheduling will not end federal marijuana prohibition and doesn’t harmonize federal law with the laws allowing some form of legal cannabis in the vast majority of the states,” he said. “In order for this move to be meaningful on the ground, we need clear enforcement guidelines issued to the DEA and FDA that would ensure the tens of thousands of state-licensed businesses responsibly serving cannabis to adults are not subject to sanctions or criminal prosecution under federal laws.”

U.S. Cannabis Council (USCC) 

“The US Cannabis Council strongly supports the move by the DEA to reclassify cannabis at a lower level under the Controlled Substances Act. President Biden and his Administration should be commended for recognizing that cannabis was wrongly classified as a Schedule I controlled substance and pursuing an administrative review to reclassify it,” USCC Executive Director Edward Conklin said.

“The proposed DEA rule implements the recommendations of the Department of Health and Human Services, which were based on an extensive scientific review by the Food and Drug Administration,” he said. “Once finalized, the reclassification of cannabis to Schedule III will mark the most significant federal cannabis reform in modern history and place the nation on a clear path toward our ultimate goal of federal legalization.”

Last Prisoner Project (LPP)

“Last Prisoner Project believes that complete descheduling and full legalization of cannabis is a necessary step towards correcting past injustices and creating a fair and equitable criminal legal system,” LPP Executive Director and General Counsel Sarah Gersten said.

“We will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that individuals burdened with past cannabis convictions have their records expunged and that all cannabis prisoners are released, regardless of the federal scheduling decision,” she said. “Despite not achieving full legalization, we must use this historic moment to push the fight for cannabis justice forward and we intend to do so by leveraging this reclassification for broader criminal legal reforms.”

Coalition for Cannabis Policy, Education, and Regulation (CPEAR)

“The federal prohibition of cannabis is centered first and foremost on its unique danger to society. The DEA has just recognized that those dangers were comparatively and empirically overblown,” Andrew Freedman, executive director of CPEAR, said. “It is time that the federal government got more nuanced about its approach to cannabis, especially as states legalize and Americans openly admit to using the product.”

National Cannabis Roundtable (NCR)

“While NCR continues to call for federal action to address criminal justice reform and empower existing state programs, rescheduling marks a monumental shift in federal cannabis policy as our fight to end prohibition continues,” NCR Executive Director Saphira Galoob said.

“We applaud President Biden for his courage and leadership in setting this process in motion, and we thank the due diligence of the DOJ and HHS in carrying out this process and coming to a decision based soundly in science that we hope to see swiftly finalized, opening up the doors for further important medical research and alleviating the insurmountable tax burden imposed under 280E,” she said.

“This is critical for state legal cannabis businesses to be treated with fairness and to have the resources needed to reinvest in their workforce and community – and to survive the threat the illicit market poses to the regulated market and public safety. But we know our work does not stop here, particularly when it comes to righting the wrongs of the War on Drugs. While we celebrate progress today with this historic news, we remain committed to continuing the conversations with our federal partners to enact additional cannabis reforms that are long overdue–starting with getting SAFE Banking passed this year and ultimately ending the harmful and misguided policy of federal prohibition.”

American Trade Association for Cannabis and Hemp (ATACH)

“In proposing to move cannabis down from Schedule I to Schedule III–a federal ranking signifying the abuse potential of a drug–the DEA will reverse decades of failed drug policies which have devastated countless lives,” ATACH President Michael Bronstein said.

“Cannabis is not the same as heroin, fentanyl or opium, which are Schedule I drugs,” he said. “Today the federal government recognizes the medical use of cannabis, its low potential for abuse, and takes a science-based approach to public health.”

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

Industry Stakeholders


“Today’s decision by the DEA to reschedule cannabis to Schedule III is one of the most monumental developments that cannabis has seen in years and is a crucial step in undoing the harms caused by the failed and discriminatory War on Drugs,” Curaleaf CEO Matt Darin said. “We are thankful to President Biden and his Administration for helping to push this process forward. This ruling reflects evolving attitudes towards the plant, recognizing its well-documented therapeutic value and medicinal applications.

“It’s very clear that the country is ready for this step, given that 92 percent of Americans are now in support of legalization in some form,” he said. “As the cannabis industry undergoes regulatory transformations, Curaleaf remains committed to collaborating with regulatory authorities, industry members, and the broader community to ensure the responsible and sustainable growth of the cannabis sector. The future for the cannabis industry is real and we look forward to seeing what 2024 has in store.”

Acreage Holdings

“Acreage strongly applauds the DEA’s decision to reclassify cannabis as a Schedule III substance under the Controlled Substances Act,” Dennis Curran, CEO of Acreage Holdings, said. “For far too long, restrictive policies have stifled the scientific examination of the plant’s many healing capabilities.”

“With this massive hurdle removed, more research can be done to learn about the medical efficacy of cannabis and the positive impact that it can have on the health and wellness of millions of people across the country,” he said. “With this monumental move also comes the elimination of 280E, which has burdened cannabis businesses and kept the industry from reaching its full potential. Finally, cannabis operators will be able to compete and operate on a more level playing field with other businesses in the country.”


“Today’s news is a critical first step towards aligning US cannabis laws with scientific evidence,” Jason Wild, executive chairman at  TerrAscend, said. He added that the company “looks forward to the positive impact that today’s news will have on patients, consumers, and the industry.”

Vicente LLP

“This is a remarkable about-face by the DEA, which spent decades denying the true medical value of the cannabis plant,” Brian Vicente, founding partner of Vicente LLP, said. “Vicente LLP has been at the forefront of cannabis policy reform for more than a decade and actively engaged in the Coalition for Cannabis Scheduling Reform, which strongly advocated for removing cannabis from Schedule I.”

“While a strong case can be made for removing cannabis from the federal drug schedules entirely, rescheduling marks a huge step forward for commonsense cannabis policy in our country,” he said. “This action will have massive impacts, both practically for the cannabis industry and symbolically for the reform movement. We have entered a new era of dialogue and policy around this historically maligned plant.”

Sunburn Cannabis

“This is one of the most historic moments in the decades-long fight to end the US government’s failed war on the cannabis plant,” Brady Cobb, CEO of Sunburn Cannabis, said.

“Cannabis has never belonged on Schedule 1 with drugs like cocaine and heroin or as President Biden noted on a more restrictive schedule than fentanyl, and the move to Schedule III is the first real step towards meaningful reform,” he said. “A tremendous amount of work has been done by so many people, and while I’ve been critical of the Biden administration on the timing of this move, credit is due for actually making it happen. Onward.”

Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA)

“While today’s reported landmark decision to reclassify cannabis is a step in the right direction to ending the conflict between state and federal law, it further underscores the need for Congress to take critical action and create a clear, comprehensive federal regulatory structure that protects public health and safety and empowers states to regulate cannabis products,” WSWA said.

“Since the enactment of the 21st Amendment, a safe, consumer-centric and economically vibrant marketplace has developed—one that serves the dual needs of regulators and consumers. WSWA continues to strongly believe that the core features of federal alcohol regulation should be the model upon which to build a federal cannabis regulatory system.”


Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM)

Drug Free America Foundation