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Biden Endorses Marijuana Rescheduling to Schedule III Drug

President Joe Biden endorsed marijuana rescheduling from an illegal Schedule I narcotic to a Schedule III drug to further social justice.

In a video, he called the proposed scheduling change “monumental.”

“Marijuana has a higher-level classification than fentanyl and methamphetamine – the two drugs driving America’s overdose epidemic. That just doesn’t add up,” Biden declared. “I’m committed to writing those historic wrongs. You have my word.”

He noted that it builds on his 2022 promise to help those hurt by federal possession charges and talks of rescheduling that initiated this process.

While most charges are local and state level crimes, Biden’s call did push the cause of social justice on the state level elsewhere.

The White House has been consistently pushing for reform. NORML advocate and Heady NJ guest writer Chris Goldstein was invited to a meeting where Vice President Kamala Harris endorsed federal cannabis legalization.

Next Steps

The U.S. Justice Department is expected to post its proposed rule in the Federal Register soon. Once it does, there will be a 60-day period of public comment. During that time advocates and activists can lobby for change by submitting comments.

Parties can also request administrative hearings to further debate the issue.

Historically, administrative rescheduling petitions have taken several years to be resolved. But Biden called upon federal agencies to initiate this administrative process to review “expeditiously.”

It builds on the news of the Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) recommendation of Schedule III as well.

Happy Reactions to Federal Cannabis Legalization Progress

“We commend President Biden for taking this important first step toward a more rational marijuana policy,” said National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) CEO & Co-founder Aaron Smith.

“This recommendation validates the experiences of tens of millions of Americans, as well as tens of thousands of physicians, who have long recognized that cannabis possesses legitimate medical utility,” National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) Deputy Director Paul Armentano exclaimed.

“It delegitimizes many of the tropes (or cliches) historically exploited by opponents of marijuana policy reform. Claims that cannabis poses unique harms to health … have now been rejected by the very federal agencies that formerly perpetuated them,” he explained.

“It’s time for Congress to enact legislation that would protect our industry, uphold public safety, and advance the will of the voters who overwhelmingly support making cannabis legal for adults,” Smith declared.

The current session of Congress, which began last year and ends next January, has made no significant progress towards federal cannabiz legalization worth noting.

Marijuana Rescheduling Issues

By definition, Schedule I substances are criminally prohibited by federal law because they possess a “high potential for abuse and have “no currently accepted medical use in the United States.” Cannabis has remained classified as a Schedule I controlled substance since 1970.

Rescheduling is being hailed as an incremental win for the legal cannabis industry. However, it would not legalize marijuana or harmonize federal law with the state-legal cannabis markets.

The NCIA also argued it does not right the wrongs of decades of misguided prohibition policies. 

“Rescheduling alone does not fix our nation’s state and federal cannabis policy conflict. Only Congress can enact the legislation needed to fully respect the states and advance the will of the vast majority of voters who support legal cannabis,” Smith noted.

Reclassifying marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III in the Controlled Substances Act would help ensure legal cannabis businesses would not be subject to Section 280E of the U.S. Tax Code that prohibits deductions associated with “drug trafficking.” 

But besides that, leading cannabis policy experts differ on what they think Schedule III means for the nuts and bolts of the industry. Some think it could wipe out the state legal markets in favor of federally regulated companies like the pharmaceutical industry, known as “Big Pharma.”

The NCIA will be submitting public comments during the rulemaking period. It will do so on behalf of the hundreds of small businesses it represents in the legal cannabis industry.

Descheduling Preferred

NORML has long argued that the cannabis plant should be removed from the Controlled Substances Act. That would be known as descheduling. It would allow state governments to regulate cannabis in the manner they see fit without violating federal law. It would also allow the federal government to provide standards and guidelines for regulated cannabis markets.

Most leading New Jersey cannabis social justice and industry advocates prefer descheduling too.

Feds Try to Catch Up to 38-State Cannabis Market

Laws to make cannabis legal for adults have passed in 24 states and the District of Columbia. Thirty-eight states have legal medical cannabis programs. 

Three out of four Americans live in a state that has legalized cannabis for medical use. Over half of Americans live in a state that has made cannabis legal for adults over 21.

A November 2023 Gallup survey found that 70% of Americans support making cannabis legal for adults. Also, a recent Pew Research Center poll found that less than 10% of Americans still support marijuana prohibition.

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