President Biden Pledges Federal Marijuana Reclassification in State of the Union Address

President Joe Biden addressed a range of issues in his recent State of the Union speech on Thursday, March 7, including a groundbreaking commitment to instruct his Cabinet to reconsider the federal classification of cannabis. This marks the first instance of a U.S. president integrating cannabis reform into the State of the Union address.

“Building public trust means directing my Cabinet to review the federal classification of marijuana and expunging thousands of convictions for mere possession,” stated Biden, emphasizing his stance on preventing the incarceration of individuals for cannabis use or possession.

Biden reiterated his stance on Twitter, asserting that “no one should be jailed for using or possessing marijuana,” sparking a response from advocates calling for tangible expungements rather than symbolic gestures, such as the pardons issued by Biden in 2022 for minor cannabis convictions.

In October 2022, Biden issued executive orders granting pardons to individuals with nonviolent federal cannabis records and tasked the Department of Health and Human Services with evaluating the potential rescheduling of cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act.

The U.S. Cannabis Council (USCC), established in 2021 to foster equitable access to the cannabis industry, has been instrumental in advocating for federal cannabis legalization and restorative justice for communities disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs. David Culver, SVP of Public Affairs at the USCC, commended Biden for addressing cannabis reform in his State of the Union speech, expressing optimism regarding potential rescheduling to Schedule III this year.

Adam Goers, co-chair of the Coalition for Cannabis Scheduling Reform, hailed Biden’s historic acknowledgment of cannabis reform in the State of the Union address, emphasizing the significance of moving cannabis to Schedule III and urging the administration to pursue rescheduling.

Regarding Biden’s pardons for federal cannabis possession convictions, thousands of individuals received pardons under announcements made in 2022 and February. However, critics note that while pardoned individuals are forgiven, they still carry a criminal record, prompting calls for sentence commutations.

Former prisoner Weldon Angelos pointed out that federal possession charges rarely lead to jail time alone, urging Biden to fulfill his promise to commute sentences for those imprisoned for cannabis felonies.

The Sentencing Project urged Biden to uphold his campaign promises to oppose mandatory minimum sentences and significantly reduce the prison population, emphasizing the disproportionate impact of mass incarceration on Black Americans.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand cautioned against mere rescheduling of cannabis under Schedule III, emphasizing the need for substantive reform. A recent survey suggests that Biden’s favorability rating could increase by 11% if cannabis rescheduling occurs, indicating widespread public support across demographics.


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