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Lawmakers, Advocates And Stakeholders React To Biden’s Marijuana Rescheduling Announcement



The Biden administration’s announcement about its formal move to reschedule marijuana has elicited another round of applause from lawmakers, industry stakeholders and advocacy groups.

While the Justice Department already confirmed two weeks ago that it would be moving to place cannabis in Schedule III, rather than Schedule I, of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), President Joe Biden officially announced the action on Thursday. And Attorney General Merrick Garland has now initiated the formal rulemaking process.

Rescheduling marijuana wouldn’t federally legalize it—a point that certain advocates are quick to point out, especially in light of Biden’s 2020 campaign pledge to decriminalize cannabis. But it would have major implications for state-licensed marijuana businesses, while opening up expanded research opportunities.

But the action is being largely praised as a historic step in the right direction, with the federal government recognizing for the first time in over 50 years that cannabis has accepted medical value and a lower abuse potential than other drugs in Schedule I such as heroin.

Here’s how people are reacting to the marijuana rescheduling announcement: 

Lawmakers and Public Officials

Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Director Rahul Gupta

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY)

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ)

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR)

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR)

“It’s official, the Biden administration has taken a historic step toward ending reefer madness and bringing commonsense to federal cannabis policy,” Wyden said. “Now it’s time to follow the lead of 24 states and more than half the country by decriminalizing and putting in place smart federal regulations. Leader Schumer, Senator Booker and I have the bill to do it.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) 

Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) 

Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA)

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)

“We are one step closer to ending the failed war on drugs. Marijuana was scheduled more than 50 years ago based on stigma, not science,” Blumenauer said. “The American people have made clear in state after state that cannabis legalization is inevitable. The Biden-Harris Administration is listening.”

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN)

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD)

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)

Rep. Troy Carter (D-LA) 

Rep. Tim Kaine (D-VA)

Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) 

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA)

Rep. Dwight Evans (D-PA)

Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX)

Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL)

Rep. Nikema Williams (D-GA)

Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV)

Rep. Jared Huggman (D-CA)

Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-CA)

Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY)

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ)

Rep. André Carson (D-IN)

Rep, Nikki Budzinski (D-IL)

Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR)

Rep. Val Hoyle (D-OR)

Rep. Haley Stevens (D-MI)

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D)

“The long wait is over and we thank President Biden and his administration for this major action on cannabis reform by moving marijuana from being in the same schedule as heroin to the schedule of codeine, acknowledging for the first time therapeutic use,” Polis said. “Colorado and 37 other states have taken comprehensive steps to legalize marijuana for medical or adult use, pushing our country past the failed era of prohibition.”

“This action from the President is pro-freedom, and forward-thinking, and will help our economy and improve public safety,” he said. “Today we begin to say goodbye to burdensome 280E tax provisions and embrace an expansion of freedoms Coloradans and Americans deeply value.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) 

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D)

Democratic National Committee

Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried

Advocates and associations


“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,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said. “But it still falls well short of the changes necessary to bring federal marijuana policy into the 21st century. Specifically, the proposed change fails to harmonize federal marijuana policy with the cannabis laws of most U.S. states, particularly the 24 states that have legalized its use and sale to adults.”

“Nevertheless, as a first step forward, this policy change dramatically shifts the political debate surrounding cannabis. Specifically, it delegitimizes many of the tropes historically exploited by opponents of marijuana policy reform. Claims that cannabis poses unique harms to health, or that it’s not useful for treating chronic pain and other ailments, have now been rejected by the very federal agencies that formerly perpetuated them. Going forward, these specious allegations should be absent from any serious conversations surrounding cannabis and how to best regulate its use.”

National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA)

“On behalf of thousands of legal businesses operating across the country, we commend President Biden for taking this important first step toward a more rational marijuana policy,” NCIA CEO Aaron Smith said. “Now 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.”

“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,” he said.

U.S. Cannabis Council (USCC)

“The US Cannabis Council strongly supports the DEA’s proposal to reclassify cannabis. Moving cannabis down to Schedule III would signal a tectonic shift away from the failed policies of the last 50 years,” Executive Director Edward Conklin said.

“Cannabis never belonged on Schedule I. Thanks to President Biden and his Administration, the federal government will soon turn the page on prohibition and set the stage for further reforms,” he said. “The proposed rule implements the recommendations of the Department of Health and Human Services, following an extensive scientific review by the Food and Drug Administration. It also happens to be overwhelmingly popular with the American public.”

“Our ultimate goal is federal legalization, and we see Schedule III as a necessary and critical step along the way,” Conklin said. “We will submit comments in the coming days in support of the proposed rule.”

Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) 

“When it comes to marijuana rescheduling, President Biden’s words are failing to match his administration’s actions. In a new video, he asserts that no one should be in jail for marijuana, and yet his support for the proposal to reschedule marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III will continue the federal criminalization of marijuana,” Kassandra Frederique, executive director of DPA, said. “His comments reveal a fundamental misunderstanding of how marijuana rescheduling will impact our communities.”

“Rescheduling marijuana to Schedule III would result in tax benefits for marijuana businesses and pharmaceutical corporations but would otherwise maintain the failed status quo. Under Schedule III, federal criminalization would remain in place, meaning arrests, deportations, and family separations for marijuana would continue. Federal food, housing, and education benefits would continue to be withheld from people with a marijuana record. People would remain behind bars for marijuana. And Schedule III would continue the glaring disconnect between state legal regulation programs and federal law.”

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

National Cannabis Roundtable (NCR)

“With the submission of the proposed rule today, the formal administrative process to remove cannabis from the strictest of classifications—where it never belonged—we are moving closer to seeing the most monumental cannabis reform in half a century come to fruition,” Saphira Galoob, executive director of NCR, said. “Just as today’s news is another step forward in the ongoing administrative process that began with the October 2022 directive by President Biden, rescheduling is also a step towards larger federal cannabis reforms.”

“This is an acknowledgment by the multiple federal agencies of what the 38 states with medical programs, 30,000 medical practitioners recommending cannabis, and six million medical cannabis patients have long known: cannabis has medical value. But our work does not end here. While we continue to commend President Biden, the DOJ, and HHS for following the science and not ignoring the need for federal cannabis policies to shift after decades of state leadership, Congress must also take action to further this progress.”

American Trade Association of Cannabis and Hemp (ATACH)

“Think about what we are witnessing: both the US Food and Drug Administration and Drug Enforcement Administration—the most important arms of federal control—are saying cannabis is medicine with the federal government now publishing a rule placing marijuana in Schedule III,” ATACH President Michael Bronstein said. “This view is what we as advocates have advanced for the last 20 years. It is a statement as bold as it is stunning, given the source. Today the dam of federal prohibition has a meaningful crack.”

Coalition for Cannabis Scheduling Reform (CCSR)

“We are thrilled to see a proposed rule from the DEA that will move cannabis to Schedule 3,” Bryan Barash, co-chair of CCSR, said. “This is a huge victory for everyone who has worked to normalize federal cannabis policy and begins the process of federal support for state cannabis markets. Most importantly, for the first time the federal government recognizes the overwhelming evidence of the clear medical benefits of cannabis.”

National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL)

“The recognition of cannabis as a less harmful substance is a welcome development, but decriminalization and decarceration efforts should remain paramount,” NACDL President Michael Heiskell said. “To address the failures of mass incarceration, which have disproportionately impacted poor people and communities of color, Congress must enact comprehensive reform.”

“This should include removing cannabis from the federal controlled substances list, establishing a regulatory framework for the industry, and providing retroactive relief in the form of clemency for individuals currently incarcerated on federal marijuana charges,” he said. “NACDL believes regulating cannabis similarly to tobacco and alcohol is the most effective approach to undo the harms of mass incarceration and prevent continued federal prosecution.”

Cannabis Freedom Alliance (CFA)

Last Prisoner Project (LPP) 

“As President Biden takes this crucial step towards cannabis reclassification, we acknowledge the progress made in recognizing the failures of our past approach,” Sarah Gersten, executive director of LPP, said. “Yet, rescheduling alone won’t rectify the injustices endured by countless individuals affected by cannabis criminalization.”

“While we commend efforts to advance progress and reduce barriers, true justice requires more. We stand firm in our commitment to advocating for complete descheduling, retroactive relief, and comprehensive legalization,” she said. “Every step forward must be accompanied by tangible actions to expunge records, release prisoners, and restore lives. We urge continued bipartisan cooperation and decisive action to right the wrongs of the War on Drugs.”

Industry Stakeholders

Vicente LLP 

“The DEA’s proposal to reclassify cannabis sets the stage for what would be a colossal shift in U.S. drug policy,” Shawn Hauser, partner at Vicente LLP, said. “After more than 50 years, the agency is finally acknowledging that cannabis has significant medical value and ought to be treated as such. Moving cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III is not the last step—but it is a crucial step—in ending marijuana prohibition once and for all.”


“While the potential rescheduling of cannabis to Schedule III is a step forward, true progress lies in complete de-scheduling and regulation akin to alcohol,” Evan Nison, president NisonCo, said. “Let’s remain cautiously optimistic but not lose sight of the ultimate goal: full legalization and equitable regulation.”

Poseidon Investment Management

“The cannabis industry has been anxiously awaiting news from the Office of Management and Budget regarding the rescheduling process of cannabis,” Morgan Paxhia, managing director of Poseidon, said. “This uncertainty has been partially cured today, another historic step forward for US legal cannabis. It is imperative that cannabis reach Final Rule and be published to the Federal Register this year as far ahead of the election as possible.”


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