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President Biden Announces Federal Government Will Reschedule Cannabis in ‘Monumental’ Announcement


President Joe Biden announced that the U.S. Department of Justice will officially reschedule cannabis, moving it from Schedule I, reserved for dangerous drugs with no medical value, to Schedule III. The news follows the historic announcement on April 30, that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), will move to reclassify cannabis under Schedule III, the Associated Press reported.

Biden, along with Vice President Kamala Harris, both recorded videos of the announcement and posted them on social media.

“This is monumental,” Biden said in a video that was posted on X. “Today my administration took a major step to reclassify marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule III drug. It’s an important move towards reversing longstanding inequities.”  

“Today’s announcement builds on the work we’ve already done to pardon a record number of federal offenses for simple possession of marijuana. And it adds to the action we’ve taken to lift barriers to housing, employment, small business loans, and so much more for tens of thousands of Americans.”

Biden continued, “No one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana.”

“Today’s announcement builds on the work we’ve already done to pardon a record number of federal offenses for simple possession of marijuana. I’m committed to writing those historic wrongs,” he said. “You have my word.

“Currently marijuana is classified on the same level as heroin and more dangerous than fentanyl,” Harris said in another video. “We are finally changing that. But I want to thank all of the advocates and everyone out there for helping to make this possible and we are on the road to getting it done.” 

“This recommendation validates the experiences of tens of millions of Americans, as well as tens of thousands of physicians, who have long recognized that cannabis possesses legitimate medical utility,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said. “But it still falls well short of the changes necessary to bring federal marijuana policy into the 21st century. Specifically, the proposed change fails to harmonize federal marijuana policy with the cannabis laws of most U.S. states, particularly the 24 states that have legalized its use and sale to adults.”

“Nevertheless, as a first step forward, this policy change dramatically shifts the political debate surrounding cannabis,” Armentano added. “Specifically, it delegitimizes many of the tropes historically exploited by opponents of marijuana policy reform. Claims that cannabis poses unique harms to health, or that it’s not useful for treating chronic pain and other ailments, have now been rejected by the very federal agencies that formerly perpetuated them. Going forward, these specious allegations should be absent from any serious conversations surrounding cannabis and how to best regulate its use.”

A 60-day comment period will soon begin to allow input on the pros and cons of Schedule III.

Questions and Shortcomings of Schedule III

Industry leaders pointed out that reclassifying cannabis under Schedule III won’t absolve the discord between federal law and dozens of medical adult-use cannabis laws at the state level. For some, the reclassification announcement leads to more questions.

“For me, it raises more questions than solving any problems that we have,” said Christopher Louie, Co-Founder & CEO of Made in Xiaolin, a legacy cannabis operator in Colorado and soo in New York. “What does this mean from here? Great, marijuana now has medical benefits in the eyes of the government. Does this mean that in order to obtain it you need a prescription and in order to distribute or manufacture it I would need a medical license? It seems this could help out pharmaceutical companies and big businesses affiliated in the medical field, but I’m not sure how this benefits companies like ours.”

Others commended the small step towards legalization that signals a shift in the way cannabis is viewed in the eyes of the federal government.

“We commend the POTUS’s efforts to reschedule cannabis to Schedule III. While the fight isn’t over to legalize cannabis nationally, this is a much-needed wind in our sails that we haven’t felt in over 50 years at the federal level,” said Vince Ning, co-founder and CEO of Nabis, a leading wholesale marketplace. “As far as public commentary goes, we will certainly be providing our thoughts on how to improve this change to push for the full legalization of this controlled substance, and how to provide safe access of quality tested cannabis products to the patients in need through existing regulatory frameworks that currently exist today.”

“President Biden characterized rescheduling as a means of reversing longstanding inequities,” said Brian Vicente, founder of Vicente LLP. “One dominating inequity cannabis businesses face is the inability to deduct regular business expenses, since they sell a Schedule 1 substance.  We work with hundreds of licensed cannabis businesses, and the ability to deduct ordinary operating costs under the Schedule 3 proposal would be a game-changer for them. This proposal will release cannabis businesses from the crippling tax burden they are currently shackled with and allow these businesses to grow and prosper.”

“On behalf of thousands of legal businesses operating across the country, we commend President Biden for taking this important first step toward a more rational marijuana policy. Now it’s time for Congress to enact legislation that would protect our industry, uphold public safety, and advance the will of the voters who overwhelmingly support making cannabis legal for adults,” said Aaron Smith, NCIA CEO & co-founder. “Rescheduling alone does not fix our nation’s state and federal cannabis policy conflict. Only Congress can enact the legislation needed to fully respect the states and advance the will of the vast majority of voters who support legal cannabis.”

There will then be a 60-day public comment period before the rule is potentially finalized.

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