By / May 20, 2024

Biden Officializes the Reclassification of Cannabis in the United States

President Joe Biden has announced a decisive step in federal cannabis policy by instructing his administration to reclassify cannabis in federal legislation. This decision follows a comprehensive administrative review ordered by Biden, which has been described as a “monumental” action.

The proposed rule by the Department of Justice aims to move cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). This adjustment would significantly alter the legal status of cannabis, recognizing its medical value and relatively low abuse potential compared to more dangerous substances.

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The Importance of the Biden Cannabis Reevaluation

“This is a monumental event,” Joe Biden stated in a video announcing the reclassification news.

“Today, my administration has taken an important step by reclassifying cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III. This is a significant move towards eliminating longstanding inequities.”

By reclassifying cannabis to Schedule III, the administration acknowledges the scientific evidence of its medical benefits, marking a departure from the previous classification that equated it with drugs like heroin.

Vice President Kamala Harris echoed this sentiment, particularly noting the disparity between current drug classifications.

“Currently, cannabis is classified at the same level as heroin and more dangerous than fentanyl. We are finally going to change that. But I want to thank all the advocates and everyone who helped make this possible, and we are on the right path to achieving it.”

This change not only reclassifies cannabis but also confirms the administration’s commitment to science-based policy reforms.

Impact on Criminal Justice and Social Equity

Joe Biden’s announcement also highlighted the broader social and legal implications of this reclassification.

“Today’s announcement builds on the work we have already done to pardon a record number of federal offenses related to simple cannabis possession. It adds to the measures we have taken to remove barriers to housing, employment, small business loans, and much more for tens of thousands of Americans.”

The reclassification of cannabis is seen as a crucial step in combating injustices that have disproportionately affected marginalized communities.

“No one should be in jail for simply using or possessing cannabis. Period,” Biden stated. “Too many lives have been upended because of a misguided approach to cannabis, and I am committed to righting these wrongs. You have my word.”

This statement is part of a broader effort to reform the criminal justice system and reduce the stigma associated with cannabis use.

Legislative and Regulatory Changes

The White House announcement comes shortly after the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) confirmed its intention to reclassify cannabis. The DEA’s decision is a direct response to Biden’s directive and follows a notice of proposed rulemaking from the Department of Justice.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre emphasized the importance of this decision during a press briefing.

“As President Biden said during his campaign, no one should be in jail for using or possessing cannabis,” she stated, calling the move to Schedule III a “major step.”

“The reform will remove significant and longstanding barriers to fundamental research,” Jean-Pierre added, noting that it follows the massive pardons granted by the president.

Public and Political Reactions to Biden Announcement

The rescheduling proposal is expected to attract significant public attention during the 60-day consultation period. Public reaction will likely be mixed, reflecting the current debate over cannabis policy in the United States. On one hand, many cannabis advocates welcome this reevaluation as recognition of its medical value and a step toward broader legalization. On the other hand, some activists feel that the reevaluation does not go far enough, as it does not fully legalize cannabis and fails to address all the harms caused by its prohibition.

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) also weighed in, suggesting that while the DEA is likely to adopt the policy change, it will not be sufficient to bring state markets into compliance with federal law. The CRS noted that Congress still has the power to bridge the gap between federal and state cannabis policies, whether before or after the reform is adopted.

Future Legislative Efforts

In Congress, the momentum for cannabis law reform continues. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and his colleagues have reintroduced a bill aiming to legalize cannabis at the federal level and impose certain regulations. However, the bill’s prospects remain uncertain in a divided Congress. The top Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives also indicated that the Biden administration’s decision to reclassify cannabis was a “step in the right direction,” but must be complemented by congressional action.

Former DEA Administrator Asa Hutchinson commented on the likely reevaluation of cannabis, stating that it “seems absolutely” certain that the agency will proceed with moving cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III. This administrative measure is seen as a significant shift in federal drug policy, even though it falls short of full legalization.

(Featured image by Aaron Kittredge via Pexels)

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First published in Newsweed, a third-party contributor translated and adapted the article from the original. In case of discrepancy, the original will prevail.

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