Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland urging the Department of Justice (DOJ) to remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act.
Under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) of 1970, the Attorney General can remove a substance from the CSA by working with the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). Cannabis is nowhere nearly as harmful as the other substances on the list. Cannabis is currently a Schedule I narcotic. Cocaine is a Schedule II narcotic.
Changing the Controlled Substances Act
“While Congress works to pass comprehensive cannabis reform, you can act now to decriminalize cannabis,” Booker and Warren wrote in a letter.
Decriminalizing cannabis federally by the Attorney General by de-scheduling it would allow states to regulate cannabis as they see fit. It would begin to remedy the harm caused by decades of racial disparities in the enforcement of cannabis laws during the War on Drugs. It would also facilitate valuable medical cannabis research.
The vast majority of the country supports the decriminalization of cannabis. Approximately 60 percent of adults believe that cannabis should be legal for medical and recreational use. An astonishing 91 percent of those surveyed support the legalization of medical cannabis only.
To date, 36 states and Washington, DC have already legalized medical cannabis. 18 states and DC have legalized cannabis for recreational adult-use cannabis.
“We urge the DOJ to initiate the process to decriminalize cannabis. Doing so would be an important first step in the broader tasks of remedying the harmful racial impact of our nation’s enforcement of cannabis laws. Ensuring that states can effectively regulate the growing cannabis industry, including by assisting small business owners and those most harmed by our historical enforcement of cannabis laws,” Booker and Warren wrote in the letter.
Notably, they seek to protect the state markets. Many states have legalized indeed legalized cannabis. But it rests on shaky grounds since it is still illegal on the federal level.
Following State Cannabis Legalization
They argue that decriminalizing cannabis at the federal level is the first step to addressing racial inequities in law enforcement. Federal cannabis policy has disproportionately affected the ability of People of Color to vote, pursue opportunities, and build wealth.
Moreover, decriminalizing cannabis is vital. Americans seeking cannabis treatment for chronic pain, PTSD, and certain terminal illnesses could then legally use the drug.
Cory Booker has been a strong proponent of ending the War on Drugs and legalizing cannabis for a few years. Warren has not been in the spotlight like Booker on cannabis reform. She is nonetheless a stronger supporter of it. Like many in the cannabis industry, she is wary of Big Tobacco dominating the industry.
Attorney General Merrick Garland may be open to decriminalization. President Joe Biden was open to the idea of decriminalization on the campaign trail. But he has said little about the issue since taking office in January.
Removing cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act would negate the need to pass other decriminalization efforts. That’s good since they have an uncertain future in Congress.