GOP Sen. John Cornyn Takes Health Secretary To Task Over Cannabis Rescheduling: Xavier Becerra Holds His Own

Zinger Key Points
  • Sen. John Cornyn took issue with the thoroughness of the FDA'a scientific research of cannabis, which was directed by President Joe Biden.
  • Health Secretary Xavier Becerra replied, “What we’re doing is simply reflecting what the science is showing.”

In the hallowed chambers of the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday, a testy exchange took place between Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra. The bone of contention was the proposed rescheduling of marijuana under federal law.

Cornyn grilled Becerra on the HSS's August 2023 recommendation to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to reclassify marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule III substance, reported Marijuana Moment.

Cornyn seemed to take issue with the thoroughness of the scientific scrutiny and research into cannabis, which was directed by President Joe Biden and undertaken by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Cornyn hinted at a departure from previous approaches to scheduling drugs.

In response, Becerra pointed to a comprehensive 252-page analysis asserting that cannabis "has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States," and the "potential for abuse less than the drugs or other substances in Schedules I and II.”

The HHS secretary even pointed to Cornyn’s state of Texas and its tentative steps toward accepting medical marijuana. "What we're doing is simply reflecting what the science is showing," Becerra said.

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Cornyn, who echoed the arguments widely disseminated by the prohibitionist group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, took issue with the HHS’s lenient stance. He questioned whether the review examined the health impacts of marijuana use on adolescent brains and pregnant women.

Despite this, Becerra stood firm, seemingly confident in the FDA’s recommendations. "As you know, throughout the country, many states have moved much farther than the federal government has."

Becerra said he didn't want to speak for the FDA in that the agency's scientists had conducted the review "independently" of the HHS's leadership, but he insisted "the rigorous work that was done to come to these conclusions was based on the science and the evidence they had before them."

As the discussion moved toward the DEA’s impending decision, Becerra deflected questions about timing, humorously suggesting that inquisitive parties should go and “knock on DEA’s door.”

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Photo: Xavier Becerra via Shutterstock

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Posted In: CannabisGovernmentNewsRegulationsPoliticsFDATop StoriesDEAFDAHHSJohn CornynPresident BidenRescheduling cannabistexasXavier Becerra
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