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Biden Touts Marijuana Scheduling Review And Pardons In New Proclamation For ‘Second Chance Month’



As federal agencies work to complete a marijuana scheduling review, President Joe Biden is touting his role in directing that process, as well as cannabis pardons he’s issues, as part of his proclamation declaring April to be “Second Chance Month.”

Biden said that his administration “has taken historic steps to end America’s failed approach to marijuana,” pointing out that criminalization over marijuana possession has “destroyed too many lives, particularly for Black and brown Americans, who have been arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at higher rates than other racial and ethnic groups.”

He then discussed his October 2022 directive to initiate a review of “how marijuana is scheduled under Federal law,” which ultimately led the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to recommend moving marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is now completing its own review before it makes a final decision.

The president went on to note that he’s also “issued categorical pardons for people convicted for simple possession and use under Federal and D.C. law while urging governors to do the same on the State level.”

“It is simple: No one should be in jail or prison for using or possessing marijuana alone,” he said.

The mention of the scheduling review in his proclamation is notable. More often than not, Biden has stuck to promoting his clemency actions when discussing cannabis reform in official messages. He did not highlight the scheduling review in last year’s “Second Chance Month” proclamation, for example, choosing instead to focus on his pardons.

But as the November election approaches, the administration has become increasingly vocal about the issue. For example, Biden discussed the marijuana action in a historic context earlier this month, during his State of the Union address.

Vice President Kamala Harris also urged DEA to finish its review and reschedule marijuana “as quickly as possible” while meeting pardon recipients for a roundtable event at the White House this month. Behind closed doors, she also said “we need to legalize marijuana.”

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, earlier this month, 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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Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Sacramento-based managing editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.


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