Cannabis News Week: Biden Decriminalization Effort Faces Hurdles

A judge in one state this week said that classifying marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug was unconstitutional.

It may have taken nearly two years, but President Joe Biden fulfilled a campaign promise when he announced that he was pardoning all federal marijuana simple possession convictions in early October

Well, technically he fulfilled only part of his campaign promise

The other part his pledge was that he’d decriminalize marijuana use, but it seems as though that might be a bridge for Biden, who was staunchly against marijuana reform while he was in the Senate. 

“As I’ve said before, no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana. Today, I’m taking steps to end our failed approach,” Biden said on Twitter, but Biden was way less friendly to weed back in his Amtrak Joe days

While he has instructed the Department of Health and Human services and the Attorney General to review the Schedule 1 classification of marijuana  under the Controlled Substances Act (the same level as heroin), the White House wants everybody to know that Biden isn’t promising anything will change. 

“Yeah, and let me just emphasize: The President is asking him to undertake a review, not to de-schedule or any particular schedule. He has asked him to undertake the review to assess where — what — how marijuana should be classified,” an administration official said at the time of the announcement.

But just re-scheduling the drug doesn’t do much. 

“If marijuana remains a controlled substance under the CSA under any schedule, that would maintain the existing conflict between the federal government and states that have legalized recreational marijuana, though moving marijuana to a less restrictive schedule could help mitigate conflicts between federal law and state medical marijuana laws,” the Congressional Research Service said in a recent report. 

Only Congress can de-schedule a drug. Biden doesn’t have the authority to do that. 

Nevada Court Moves on Marijuana Scheduling

This week a Las Vegas judge ruled that the Nevada Board of Pharmacy is no longer the authority regulating marijuana in the state. 

This comes after District Judge Hoe Hardy Jr. ruled that the board’s classification of cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug was unconstitutional, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

He followed that decision up with his ruling this week that the board could not regulate marijuana or marijuana products, because the state government has assigned those tasks to a separate cannabis compliance board.

This new ruling means that the Board of Pharmacy can’t reschedule cannabis as a controlled substance under any schedule, the ACLU said in a statement.

FDA Joins Scheduling Review

The Food and Drug Administration is looking into “flexibilities we might have,” Principal Deputy Commissioner Janet Woodcock said this week as part of Biden’s scheduling review. 

Woodcock said that the Drug Enforcement Administration scheduling makes it difficult to study cannabis, but that the DEA would have “final word” on any scheduling decision, Marijuana Moment reported

Over the past few years, Americans have become more relaxed in their view of marijuana, and the polling reflects this.

Over 60% of Americans approved of Biden’s marijuana pardon, according to a YouGov poll, with 38% strongly approving. About a quarter of the 7,606 respondents either somewhat or strongly disapproved of the move.

More than half said marijuana should not be a Schedule 1 drug. A quarter said that it should be.

As a Schedule 1 substance, it is considered by the federal government to be as dangerous as heroin. As part of Biden’s announcement, however, the secretary of health and human services and the attorney general are “expeditiously” reviewing weed’s scheduling status under federal law.

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