EXCLUSIVE: Lankford Urges DEA to Keep Marijuana a Schedule I Drug
On Monday, Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) along with 14 other senators and congressmen sent a letter to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) demanding that it deny the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) request to reschedule marijuana as a lower-risk Schedule III drug. The letter comes as a growing chorus of lawmakers and experts warn of the manifold harms to society that could result from removing prohibitions on the drug.
In the letter provided exclusively to The Washington Stand, the lawmakers argue that “[a]ny effort to reschedule marijuana should be based on proven facts and science — not popular opinion, changes in state laws, or the preferred policy of an administration.”
Lankford was joined by seven other senators, including Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), James Risch (R-Idaho), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Ted Budd (R-N.C.), Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), as well as six congressmen, including Pete Sessions (R-Texas), Chuck Edwards (R-N.C.), Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), Buddy Carter (R-Ga.), and Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.).
Citing the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the letter notes that “30% of marijuana users have marijuana use disorder, which includes individuals who are severely addicted to the drug.” It further points to the increased level of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) currently present in most forms of cannabis, “which is three times the amount of THC compared to the marijuana consumed 25 years ago. A higher concentration of THC is likely linked to higher rates of addiction.”
The 15 lawmakers go on to highlight the fact that the Food and Drug Administration has only approved “one marijuana-derived drug and three synthetic marijuana-related drugs.” The “crucial distinction” between these medical drugs and conventional marijuana, the letter notes, is that the medical drugs do “not cause intoxication and [do] not contain THC, which is the psychoactive component of marijuana.”
The letter goes on to highlight that the DEA has previously rejected petitions to reschedule marijuana in 2016. The agency’s rejection letter at the time emphasized that “the known risks of marijuana use have not been shown to be outweighed by specific benefits in well-controlled clinical trials that scientifically evaluate safety and efficacy.” “In fact,” the lawmakers wrote, “HHS recommended at the time that DEA reject these petitions and that marijuana remain in Schedule I.”
In the seven years that have elapsed since then, “the situation has only gotten worse,” the letter underscored. The lawmakers cite a study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics which found that “marijuana edible ingestions in children six and under increased by 1375.0% between 2017 and 2021.” The letter further quoted a New York Times article examining the negative health effects that cannabis has on teenagers, which found that repeated doses can cause “psychosis that could possibly lead to a lifelong psychiatric disorder, an increased likelihood of developing depression and suicidal ideation, changes in brain anatomy and connectivity and poor memory.”
The letter comes as a growing number of Republicans and health experts are voicing concerns about the Biden administration and some lawmaker’s pattern of support for loosening restrictions on psychoactive drugs.
In a social media post on August 30, Lankford summed up the negative societal effects of marijuana that are becoming increasingly worrisome to observers.
“Oklahoma has seen alarming growth in illegal grow operations, foreign land purchases by China and others, and related criminal activity, including execution-style murder,” he wrote. “More marijuana is not good for our families, our businesses, or our communities.”
Dan Hart is senior editor at The Washington Stand.