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White House Declines To Say Whether Biden Supports Marijuana Rescheduling Proposal From DOJ



The White House has declined to say whether President Joe Biden personally supports the Justice Department’s plan to reschedule marijuana following a review that he directed.

Speaking with reporters on Air Force One on Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was asked about the president’s position on DOJ’s plans to move cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

“We’re going to let that review process continue, so I’m not going to get ahead of that,” she said, adding that Biden has been “very clear” that he “doesn’t believe any American that possesses marijuana only should go to jail.”

Jean-Pierre has repeatedly avoided commenting directing on the administration’s position on the specific rescheduling proposal. However, she said last week that the review the president directed is part of fulfilling the pledge he made to voters in the 2020 election.

Biden has issued two rounds of mass pardons for people who’ve committed federal marijuana possession offenses. A Schedule III reclassification would not legalize cannabis or free people still incarcerated over cannabis.

It should also be noted that, during his run for the presidency, Biden pledged to move cannabis to Schedule II—a stricter category compared to what’s been proposed by his administration.

In any case, the press secretary said on Wednesday that the president’s stance on the issue is why he directed” the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Justice Department “to review rescheduling marijuana.”

“They’re doing that—that process has moved, right? [It] went through HHS, now it’s at DOJ. I just don’t want to get ahead of that,” Jean-Pierre said.

The White House has also so far been unwilling to confirm where the rescheduling proposal is in the process. While the press secretary said it’s with DOJ, the Justice Department confirmed that the review is complete. The expectation is that it should have been submitted to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review before it’s published in the Federal Register and opened up for public comment.

The head of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) also told lawmakers during a committee hearing on Tuesday that it would be “inappropriate” for her to comment on the agency’s recent marijuana rescheduling determination because the rulemaking process is “ongoing.”

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The press secretary also said last month that Biden has been “very, very clear” about his support for decriminalizing marijuana. Days earlier, Jean-Pierre reiterated that HHS made its rescheduling recommendation to DEA based on a review that was “guided by evidence [and] by science,” which is “what we believe here in this administration.”

In any case, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have also become increasingly vocal about marijuana policy reform actions in the lead-up to the November election.

Separately, the top Democrat in the U.S. House said last week that the Biden administration’s move to reschedule marijuana is a “step in the right direction,” but it should be followed up with congressional action such as passing the legalization bill Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) filed.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, a Republican senator said that marijuana is a “gateway drug,” and Democrats’ moves to legalize it reflect “pro-criminal, anti-American policies” that will “stimulate more crime on American streets.” He also argued that cannabis banking legislation “facilitates an entire infrastructure and an ecosystem for more drug usage in America.”

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