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Biden Touts Work To Address ‘Failed Approach To Marijuana’ In Civil Rights Act Proclamation



President Joe Biden has once again touted his administration’s work to address the “failed approach to marijuana”—this time as part of a proclamation marking the 60th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act.

The proclamation that was signed on Monday broadly recognizes progress in confronting racial inequities, honoring the legacies of civil rights leaders while describing administrative actions of the Biden administration that support Black communities. One of those actions involves cannabis reform, the president said.

“My Administration is changing our Nation’s failed approach to marijuana, which disproportionately impacts communities of color,” the proclamation says. “I have used executive clemency more than any recent President at this point in my Presidency in pursuit of justice and fairness.”

While he generally referred to acts of clemency, Biden has specifically pardoned thousands of people who’ve committed marijuana possession offenses. He also directed a cannabis scheduling review that led the Justice Department to propose reclassifying the drug. A public comment period to weigh in on that proposed rule is ongoing.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre also discussed the Civil Rights Act proclamation at a briefing on Tuesday, where she echoed the point that the Biden administration is “changing our country’s failed approach to marijuana, which disproportionately impacts communities of color.”

The president has also previously promoted his cannabis pardons and scheduling directive in proclamations marking “Second Chance Month.” In 2022, he pointed to the pardons as an example of how his administration is tackling racial justice.

Last month, the White House separately said Biden “commends and welcomes” recent news that Maryland’s governor has issued over 175,000 pardons for marijuana and paraphernalia convictions.

In May, meanwhile, Biden also discussed his mass marijuana pardons at a rally in Philadelphia, where he finally acknowledged that his clemency actions did not expunge records after he had repeatedly suggested they did.

While the president might have adjusted his rhetoric to reflect the realities of the clemency action, he hasn’t indicated that he’s willing to offer relief for offenses beyond simple possession. In fact, he’s specifically said that growing or distributing cannabis is “a different deal.”

The White House drug czar, Rahul Gupta, has also discussed the rescheduling move multiple times over the past month, framing it as a “historic” reform that could open the door to cannabis-based drug development. However, he’s also inflated the impact of a Schedule III reclassification, at one point suggesting it would address racial disparities in marijuana enforcement.

The Biden-Harris campaign has also drawn a contrast between the marijuana policy actions of their administration and that of former President Donald Trump, pointing out that DOJ under his administration rescinded federal cannabis enforcement guidance that generally laid out a policy of non-interference with legal marijuana states.

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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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