President Joseph Biden based part of his campaign on marijuana reform, stating that he would pursue marijuana decriminalization and the expungement of prior cannabis-related offenses. However, one-and-a-half years after he took office, the Biden administration has barely taken any action to keep the president’s marijuana promises. This inaction has been met with criticism and disappointment from drug reform activists and lawmakers.
Six U.S. senators recently renewed their call for the president to fulfill his cannabis promises, specifically de-scheduling cannabis and granting mass pardons to people currently incarcerated for cannabis offenses. Furthermore, they said that the Justice Department’s response to a letter the lawmakers sent in October 2021 was “extraordinarily disappointing.”
Sens Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Ed Markley, Kirsten Gillibrand and Ed Markey were signatories to the new letter sent to the president, Human Services (HHS) secretary Xavier Becerra, and Attorney General Merrick Garland.
They requested that the attorney general remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and that \ Biden issue mass pardons to people who were convicted for nonviolent federal cannabis offences. According to the senators, it took the DOJ a whopping six months to reply to the letter the y sent last October asking the attorney general to use his power to independently begin the process of removing cannabis from the CSA.
The ‘half-page response’ they received this April was extraordinarily disappointing, the senators wrote in the new letter. As per the April 2022 letter, the DOJ stated that the HHS still hadn’t determined that cannabis could be a safe and effective treatment option, hence its inaction. But the senators argued in their most recent letter that this ignored the fact that the DOJ and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) had the power to start the de-scheduling process without the HHS’s input.
They say that the Controlled Substances Act empowers Attorney General Garland to request a scientific review from the HHS. Even if Human Services recommends that cannabis remain a Schedule I controlled substance or move to a lower schedule, the attorney general could still start the process of removing cannabis from the CSA. As such, the DOJ does not need a determination from the HHS to begin the de-scheduling process, the senators said, and research has already proven that cannabis does have medical benefits.
A coalition of senators, including Senators Warren and Markey sent Biden a letter in November 2021 urging him to grant mass clemency to people with federal cannabis convictions. However, the administration still hasn’t responded to the letter to date. The recent letter stated that while Biden’s efforts to grant pardons to 78 people were commendable, his administration needed to do much more to handle the situation
The entire cannabis industry, including entities such as Flora Growth Corp. (NASDAQ: FLGC), is also wondering when the federal government will ever wake up and recognize that science has proven that marijuana does possess medical benefits and that many patients see it as a godsend.
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