Biden must push to decriminalize marijuana. Rescheduling is not enough.

President Biden Promised to Decriminalize Marijuana.

In 2020, when Biden campaigned for President, he promised to expunge prison records and decriminalize marijuana. He acknowledged that arrests and imprisonment affect Black and Latinx communities at a disproportionate rate. In August 2023, it was reported that the Department of Health and Human Services recommended moving marijuana to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). But this will not decriminalize marijuana as he promised. Now, the Drug Enforcement Administration is reviewing this recommendation and will make its own determination. Because it is unlikely the DEA will deschedule marijuana, President Biden must call on Congress to pass marijuana legislation that would completely remove marijuana from the CSA to decriminalize it. He must also pursue executive actions, now, to lessen the harms of marijuana criminalization to provide immediate relief until Congress passes a permanent and comprehensive solution.

End the Federal Criminalization of Marijuana for All.

Seventy percent of adults believe that marijuana should be legal.

Source: Gallup poll

Twenty-four states and D.C. have legalized marijuana for adult use.

Source: National Conference of State Legislatures

In 2021, over 80% of people sentenced for federal marijuana charges were Black & Latinx.

Source: ACLU
A marijuana plant.

Rescheduling Is Not a Policy Solution. 

President Biden rightly called marijuana criminalization a failure. However, rescheduling marijuana would continue this failure. As long as it remains under the CSA, people could be threatened by federal criminal penalties.

What Is The Controlled Substances Act and Why Must Marijuana Be Removed From It?

The CSA regulates certain drugs under existing federal law into one of five schedules. As a result of its placement in any schedule of the CSA, marijuana is criminalized. Currently, marijuana is a “Schedule 1” drug. This means that the U.S. government has labeled marijuana as a drug with a high abuse risk. They claim it has no safe, accepted medical use. We know from research and anecdotal experience that people find many benefits to using marijuana.

Moving marijuana to a less harsh schedule, such as Schedule III, under the CSA would officially acknowledge the medical benefits of marijuana. However, medical and adult use in legal states would still be illegal under federal law. There would still be penalties for personal use and selling marijuana with or without a license. This includes mandatory minimum sentences. Noncitizens could still be deported simply for working in the marijuana industry, even in legal states. People could still be denied assistance for housing and food if they have a previous conviction.

Congress and President Biden have a responsibility to end federal marijuana criminalization and its harms.

President Biden recognizes that criminalizing marijuana has harmed lives, especially in Black and brown communities. But moving marijuana to Schedule III alone cannot undo the damage caused by decades of federal prohibition.

President Biden must take meaningful action to end federal marijuana criminalization. He must:

  • issue broader pardons and give back benefits to people and communities who lost them as a result of a marijuana conviction;
  • call on the Department of Justice to issue new guidance to ease federal marijuana enforcement;
  • call on Congress to pass federal marijuana legislation that would decriminalize marijuana and completely remove it from the CSA, and establish programs to repair the harms marijuana criminalization has caused, particularly in Black and brown communities that have suffered the most from racially discriminatory enforcement.

Tell President Biden to act on federal marijuana reform.

Support Marijuana Decriminalization Now.
A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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