Contrary to Biden’s Rhetoric, Proposal to Reschedule Marijuana Would Fail to Reverse Longstanding Inequalities

Statement Kassandra Frederique May 16, 2024
Media Contact

Maggie Hart, [email protected]

Washington, D.C. – Today, President Joe Biden announced that his administration’s Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) will move forward with their proposal to reschedule marijuana on the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) from Schedule I to Schedule III. Tomorrow, the White House will open a 60-day public comment period on the rescheduling proposal, during which members of the public can provide feedback on it. The Drug Policy Alliance, in partnership with United for Marijuana Decriminalization, plans to mobilize community members to make their voices heard and encourage the Biden Administration to follow through on their pledge to federally decriminalize, not just reschedule, marijuana.

In response to today’s announcement, Kassandra Frederique, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), released the following statement:

“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. 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.

“Rescheduling marijuana, as President Biden claimed, will not reverse longstanding inequalities nor will it release anyone from prison. As a Black woman who grew up seeing my communities locked up for marijuana and locked out of opportunities to live full lives because of their arrests, I know better than to accept rhetoric in place of action. President Biden promised to decriminalize marijuana and is now offering more of the same. Our communities have waited long enough for common-sense marijuana laws grounded in health, racial equity, and reinvestment. We cannot wait any longer.”


Shifting marijuana from Schedule I, the most restrictive category, to Schedule III, a less restrictive category, would acknowledge the research showing marijuana has medical value and a relatively low risk for abuse. However, outside of a tax benefit for marijuana businesses, rescheduling would maintain criminal penalties for marijuana and the collateral consequences associated with it.  38 states have laws that allow for medical cannabis use and 24 states have laws that allow for adult recreational cannabis use.  Despite these reforms at the state level – as long as marijuana is a scheduled substance under the CSA, the repercussions of federal marijuana criminalization will continue – even for conduct that is authorized under state law. Individuals could still face criminal penalties, including mandatory minimum sentences, for personal use and distribution.

Additionally, under a Schedule III classification, people with marijuana-related convictions could still lose access to federal housing and food benefits, or even face deportation. According to the ACLU, over 80% of people sentenced for federal marijuana charges were Black or Latino. This is a clear indication that maintaining federal criminalization in any form will perpetuate racially discriminatory policing and enforcement.

Learn more about federal marijuana scheduling here.


About the Drug Policy Alliance 

The Drug Policy Alliance is the leading organization in the U.S. working to end the drug war, repair its harms, and build a non-punitive, equitable, and regulated drug market. We envision a world that embraces the full humanity of people, regardless of their relationship to drugs. We advocate that the regulation of drugs be grounded in evidence, health, equity, and human rights. In collaboration with other movements and at every policy level, we change laws, advance justice, and save lives. Learn more at

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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