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NORML NJ Advocate & Others Meeting Vice President Kamala Harris on Federal Cannabis Reform

Regional NORML NJ Coordinator Chris Goldstein and others are meeting Vice President Kamala Harris at the White House to discuss federal cannabis reform.

He will be part of a discussion tomorrow, along with two other Presidential marijuana pardon recipients on the ongoing efforts by the Biden Administration to reform federal cannabis policies.

Two additional pardon recipients, hip-hop artist Fat Joe and Kentucky Gov. Andrew Beshear (D), will also attend the meeting. Beshear signed Kentucky medical cannabis legalization into law.

Goldstein lives in Burlington County in South Jersey. He has a colorful history of cannabis activism in New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania as a leader of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Law (NORML). He has also contributed several guest posts to Heady NJ.

Kamala Harris was initially the San Francisco District Attorney and in favor of the War on Drugs. However, as a U.S. Senator from California, she became in favor of federal cannabis reform. In fact, Kamala Harris sponsored cannabis legalization legislation while in the Senate.

Presidential Pardons

In 2014, Goldstein was federally convicted of misdemeanor marijuana possession for smoking cannabis during a protest in an outdoor area of Independence Hall National Historical Park in Philadelphia. Goldstein received a Presidential pardon certificate earlier this year.

 “These Presidential pardons are a powerful and meaningful action,” he declared. “They carry a tremendous power of goodwill. Not just to those of us who received them. But for the entire country. These pardons are seen by people everywhere as tangible signs of the White House taking action on marijuana policy.”

Goldstein has been an advocate for cannabis legalization since the medical cannabis legalization era of the 2000s.

“Three of us will discuss the real-world impact of our federal marijuana convictions and the relief provided by these Presidential pardons,” he added. “Thousands of people are still eligible, and this event should help raise awareness for more people to apply.”

 “We will help represent tens of millions of Americans who have been arrested for marijuana in nearly a century of prohibition,” Goldstein exclaimed.

Goldstein intends to use his time with the Vice President to bring awareness to the Presidential pardon process and to emphasize the need for further federal action, such as descheduling cannabis.

Rescheduling or Descheduling Cannabis

In 2022, the Administration initiated an administrative review of marijuana’s Schedule I status. As part of that review, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has recommended cannabis be moved to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act.

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is heavily influencing the process. The current Administrator is Anne Milgram. She was the Assistant New Jersey Attorney General under former Jon Corzine (D).

Longtime New Jersey cannabis advocates Bill Caruso, and Ken Wolski of the Coalition of Medical Marijuana of NJ (CMMNJ) have told Heady NJ said Milgram was in favor of the medical cannabis bill, the Compassionate Use of Medical Marijuana Act (CUMMA) that Corzine ultimately signed into law.

That could mean she might favor progress on federal cannabis legalization.

However, it seems forces in the agency do not want cannabis legal.

It makes sense the narcs want to keep it that way. But only time will tell.

Schedule III Issues

While HHS recommended Schedule III, not everyone in the cannabis industry or community is in favor of it.

A lot of pharmaceutical drugs are Schedule III. They are produced by humongous corporations that are far larger than the Multi-State Operators (MSOs) that dominate the state-legal cannabis industry.

There is the fear it would not foster small, diversely owned businesses. Nor would it allow the state markets, which have laws and regulations to favor those businesses like New Jersey, to flourish.

Many cannabis advocates protested the limited measures at the White House in 2022.

Biden and Federal Cannabis Reform

President Joe Biden issued a pardon proclamation in October 2022 for several thousand Americans with federal convictions for marijuana possession offenses.

“No one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana,” he declared.

Biden recently repeated those sentiments in his State of the Union address to Congress.

Last December, Biden issued another, more expansive pardon proclamation. An online portal for those who wish to apply to receive written pardon certificates is available on the Justice Department website.

Ahead of the White House meeting, Goldstein and NORML Political Director Morgan Fox are attending meetings with several members of Congress.

Goldstein, along with other members of NORML’s staff, will join Live with NORML following Friday’s discussion.

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