Biden To Loosen Federal Marijuana Laws

In a move that signals a major shift in the federal government’s approach to marijuana laws, the Biden administration is reportedly preparing to reclassify the drug from Schedule I to Schedule III of the Controlled Substance Act (CSA). The enforcement change has received mixed reactions from marijuana advocates and legal experts, with some viewing it as a positive step for the cannabis industry and others considering it a half-measure that will do little to resolve existing conflicts between state and federal laws.

One significant change the rescheduling would bring would be alleviating the tax burden on cannabis businesses operating legally in states where marijuana is permitted. It would also surely lead to major changes in how law enforcement agencies investigate marijuana-related criminal activity.

David Culver, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs for the U.S. Cannabis Council, expressed optimism about the possible reclassification, stating, “If it’s going to be finalized at Schedule III, it’s going to be the moment that the industry can turn the corner, and we begin to see the growth in the cannabis space amongst the legal operators that we’ve been waiting on for so long.”

However, not everyone shares Culver’s enthusiasm. Some advocates argue that moving marijuana to Schedule III falls short of addressing the deeper issues related to federal cannabis regulation. Paul Armentano, Deputy Director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), contends that this change would merely maintain the current inconsistency between state and federal laws. He asserts, “Classifying it as Schedule III would make every existing state cannabis law that’s currently inconsistent with federal law equally inconsistent going forward. So, it doesn’t solve any of the problems before it.”

Armentano emphasizes the need for marijuana to be “descheduled” for practical reasons. Many states have chosen to regulate marijuana as a legal commodity within their specific systems, a practice currently not permitted for substances listed in the CSA.

Kevin Sabet, President of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, opposes the reclassification, asserting that it would intensify the commercialization and glamorization of marijuana. He argues that such a move could negatively impact public health.

While Gallup’s recent survey shows that 70% of Americans support marijuana legalization, Biden’s actions may not fully align with these sentiments. In the past, he announced a review of the drug’s classification under the CSA, but he hasn’t gone as far as supporting full legalization.

The marijuana reclassification process is playing out publicly, with the Department of Health and Human Services publicly announcing its review status updates through postings to government social media accounts.