In a recent House Education and the Workforce Committee hearing, Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-OR) voiced her support for rescheduling marijuana at the federal level but warned against broader drug decriminalization. Addressing U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, Chavez-DeRemer described the decision to reclassify cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) as “really good welcoming news.”

Despite her approval of the cannabis rescheduling, Chavez-DeRemer expressed concerns about broader drug policy changes similar to Oregon’s now-overturned decriminalization law. She emphasized the importance of maintaining a regulated approach to cannabis legalization to avoid the pitfalls experienced in Oregon.

“Federal guidance has always been a nightmare [with respect to marijuana], and it’s more important than ever to create a safe and professional environment for one of the fastest growing industries in America,” Chavez-DeRemer stated. She highlighted the need for responsible regulation, contrasting it with Oregon’s previous policy, which decriminalized all drugs simultaneously and was “not a good plan.”

Chavez-DeRemer questioned Becerra on ensuring that federal cannabis legalization does not replicate Oregon’s Measure 110, which she argued led to an increase in street drugs and did not adequately support those in need. Becerra, acknowledging his awareness of Measure 110, assured that the agency’s actions would be evidence-based and not yet finalized.

While President Joe Biden’s directive for a marijuana scheduling review resulted in a Schedule III recommendation, the administration is not actively pursuing broader drug decriminalization. A progressive bill to federally decriminalize drugs was introduced during the last Congress but did not advance and has not been reintroduced.

During the hearing, Chavez-DeRemer also promoted the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) 2.0 Act, which she is cosponsoring. This bill aims to end federal marijuana prohibition in states where it is legal, allow interstate cannabis commerce, normalize IRS policy for the industry, and establish a federal tax-and-regulate framework. According to Chavez-DeRemer, this legislation would “ensure that every state has its right to determine the best approach to cannabis within its borders.”

Becerra reiterated the administration’s commitment to an evidence-based approach in cannabis policy, similar to previous statements he has made to lawmakers defending the Schedule III conclusion.

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