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Biden, Harris And Top DOJ Official Promote Marijuana Pardons While Commemorating ‘Second Chance Month’



President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and a top Justice Department official all marked “Second Chance Month” on Friday by separately touting the administration’s mass marijuana pardons—the latest acknowledgement from the White House that cannabis reform is a focus heading into the November election.

Amid heightened expectations about a possible federal marijuana scheduling action following the president’s 2022 directive, the president and vice president are again highlighting the administration’s moves to offer cannabis clemency.

This latest round of comments and social media posts comes in the middle of a month that the administration has used two years in a row to promote its broader criminal justice reform efforts. Biden previously mentioned his cannabis pardons and scheduling directive in the proclamation that designated April as “Second Chance Month.”

The president said during a National Action Network Convention speech on Friday that he’s “keeping my promise that no one should be in federal prison for merely possessing marijuana,” while fulfilling other criminal justice reform commitments.

Biden has increasingly touted the clemency action in recent months, including historically during his State of the Union address last month.

Harris, for her part, shared a video clip on social media from her White House roundtable with marijuana pardon recipients, where she urged the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to finish its review into rescheduling cannabis “as quickly as possible” and, behind closed doors, said “we need to legalize marijuana.”

“Nobody should go to jail for smoking weed,” Harris said. “During Second Chance Month, I am uplifting the inspiring stories of pardon recipients… Their journeys are proof of the importance of pardons and second chances.”

Also on Friday, the Justice Department hosted an event commemorating Second Chance Month that included a handful of mentions of Biden’s marijuana pardon proclamations.

“In December, the president issued his second categorical pardon for certain marijuana offenses by expanding it to people who use marijuana or violated certain federal regulations,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco told the crowd, adding that “this is part of the larger effort for second chances and effort being led really by all of you—past and present colleagues here at the department devoted to this issue.”

Pardon Attorney Elizabeth Oyer also noted at the event that Biden has “pardoned thousands of people convicted of possessing marijuana.”

“Each one of the president’s commutation grants has transformed the life of a deserving recipient,” she said.

A DEA official recently said it sometimes takes up to six months for DEA to complete its analysis of health officials’ scheduling recommendations—which is just about how long it has now been since the agency began its current cannabis assessment.

Meanwhile, last month, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra defended his agency’s rescheduling recommendation during a Senate committee hearing and also told cannabis lobbyist Don Murphy that he should pay DEA a visit and “knock on their door” for answers about the timing of their decision.

Certain DEA officials are reportedly resisting the Biden administration’s rescheduling push, disputing the HHS findings on marijuana’s safety profile and medical potential, according to unnamed sources who spoke with The Wall Street Journal.

The Biden administration was also recently pressed to reschedule marijuana by two coalitions representing military veterans and law enforcement—including a group that counts DEA’s Milgram among its members.

Based on a recent poll, President Joe Biden’s cannabis moves stand to benefit him in the election. The survey found the president’s favorability spiked after people were made aware of the possibility that marijuana could be rescheduled under the Biden-initiated review.

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