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White House Says Marijuana Rescheduling Is Part Of Pledge Biden Made To Voters In Last Campaign



The White House says that President Joe Biden’s marijuana review directive that’s now resulted in a Justice Department rescheduling decision is part of fulfilling the pledge he made to voters in the 2020 election.

At a press briefing on Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was asked about the status of DOJ’s proposed rule to move marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). She said that the “process continues,” but she couldn’t confirm that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has received the proposed rule yet.

The Justice Department did confirm on Tuesday that Attorney General Merrick Garland has “circulated a proposal to reclassify marijuana,” but it’s procedurally unclear where exactly that proposal currently sits.

A DOJ spokesperson told Marijuana Moment on Wednesday that they don’t have “any additional information beyond the statement from yesterday.” A White House staffer deferred to DOJ.

During Wednesday’s briefing, Jean-Pierre simply reiterated that Biden directed the scheduling review in late 2022, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommended moving cannabis to Schedule III and “DOJ is looking into that.”

“I just want to be really mindful there. They’re moving with that process. I don’t have anything more to say,” she said.

While she deferred to DOJ after being asked whether the White House OMB has received the rescheduling proposal, the press secretary added: “Let’s not forget that this is something that the president talked about during his campaign. He said no American who only possesses marijuana should go to jail. It is affecting communities across the country, including communities of color.”

“This is why he asked HHS and Department of Justice to look into this, and that’s what they’re doing,” she said.

“This is a commitment and a promise that he made when he decided to run back in 2019, and he was very clear why it was important, he believed, to ask the Department of Justice and HHS to review this,” the press secretary said. “That review continues, and so don’t want to get ahead of how [DOJ is] moving forward.”

Again, the Justice Department confirmed that the review is now complete, meaning the next step should be a White House OMB review before publishing the proposed rule in the Federal Register. It’s then expected to go through a public comment period and possible administrative hearing before being finalized.

While Jean-Pierre is right that Biden did previously campaign on rescheduling marijuana, he also pledged to federally decriminalize the plant. But rescheduling, as is now in the works, would not legalize or decriminalize cannabis.

The president has issued two proclamations granting mass marijuana pardons to people who’ve committed federal possession offenses, but there are still thousands of people incarcerated in federal prison over cannabis-related convictions.

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.

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