Explained: President Joe Biden’s Cannabis Reforms

Explained: President Joe Biden’s Cannabis Reforms - GCI Content Hub - Global Cannabis Intelligence

In a historic White House statement delivered on Thursday, President Joe Biden pardoned all Americans who have been convicted for “simple possession” of cannabis.

Acknowledging the “failed approach” that has criminalized thousands of people in the US for cannabis possession, paired with the fact that it is no longer a prohibited plant across a plethora of states, President Biden said: “Sending people to prison for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives and incarcerated people for conduct that many states no longer prohibit.”

He continued: “Criminal records for marijuana possession have also imposed needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities.”

It is no secret that the way drugs have been policed in the US has been steeped in racial bias, as “Black and brown people have been arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at disproportionate rates” in comparison to usage rates, which are similar for white, Black and brown people.

President Biden’s Cannabis Reforms Outlined

Addressing the collateral consequences of convictions, President Biden announced a pardon for all prior Federal offences pertaining to simple possession of cannabis.

Moreover, he will be urging all Governors to do the same regarding state offences, highlighting that nobody should reside in either Federal or state prison for these convictions.

Equally as significant, the President has called upon the Department of Justice and Department of Health to “initiate the administrative process to review expeditiously how marijuana is scheduled under federal law.”

Cannabis is a safe plant that is used for medicines – and recreational use – around the world, with cannabis-derived products that are even approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, cannabis is still currently classified as a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act.

This means that the medically safe plant is classified in parity with heroin and “even higher than the classification of fentanyl and methamphetamine – the drugs that are driving our overdose epidemic.”

A rescheduling of cannabis would be a monumental step forward for patients and users alike, throughout the world. Governments have historically taken their lead on drug policy from the US; a change in scheduling for cannabis would likely see a wave of long-overdue progressive policy initiatives enacted throughout the world.

President Biden’s statement comes at a time when measures to change cannabis laws in the US are at a legislative impasse. A number of Federal cannabis reform bills have passed through Congress but are consistently thwarted by the Senate.

It is hoped that the presidential stamp of approval on wider cannabis reform will expedite regulatory changes in the US.

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