If you watch the news or spend any time in front of a screen, you’ve most likely heard of President Biden’s new federal initiative on marijuana reform.
His change is three-fold: he pardoned all federal-level marijuana possession charges. Then, he urged state and local lawmakers to do the same, and finally, he started a review on marijuana’s placement as Schedule I on the Controlled Substances Act. All of this sounds amazing, right? As the smoke settles around the big news, let’s talk about what it means for our run-of-the-mill cannabis enthusiast or medical patient.
Is Biden's Simple Marijuana Possession Pardon A Good Thing?
First, pardoning federal marijuana possession charges sounds like great news. And it is, for the few people it reaches. See, the issue is that Biden, acting in his role as head of the federal government, can only pardon federal marijuana possession charges, as well as charges issued under D.C. code, but not ones issued by state or local governments: which most marijuana possession charges end up under. Basically, it’s extremely unlikely the Feds have busted down your door for simply smoking a joint. And with the exception of being caught by the feds for simple possession or getting nailed with a possession charge in the District of Columbia, this pardon won’t do anything for you. Still, a tiny step in the right direction.
Biden Wants States To Follow His Marijuana Policy - But Will They?
Biden’s second prong of marijuana reform also sounds great but is effectively toothless. Biden urged state and local lawmakers to follow his lead and pardon simple possession charges. Well, my mother has urged me to quit smoking marijuana ever since she caught a whiff of it (to no avail), and your girlfriend may urge you to clean out the garage on a weekly basis. The issue is that urging is not compelling someone to do something, and state and local lawmakers (we’re looking at you, Midwest) that are already opposed to marijuana for personal or moral reasons are unlikely to follow Biden’s prerogative unless they are forced to do so.
Only California’s and Illinois’ governors have issued pardons so far. Write a letter to your senator.
Will Biden's Directive To Reschedule Marijuana Have Any Positive Effect?
Finally, Biden wants to look at how and why marijuana is still a Schedule I drug. For those of us unfamiliar with the Controlled Substances Act, it divvies up drugs into five categories. Schedule I drugs are drugs that the DEA claims have “a high potential for abuse and the potential to create severe psychological and/or physical dependence,” as well as no medical value. Schedule I drugs include heroin, LSD, and hilariously, marijuana. Schedule II drugs are substances the government claims are just as dangerous as the level above them, with one caveat: they have some medical benefit and can be administered under the care of a physician. These drugs include methamphetamine, cocaine, and some synthetic opioids. The fact that marijuana is Schedule I means that the Feds claim it has no medical value, which ironically, makes it harder to research and establish its medical value which would move it down to Schedule II. The issue with rescheduling marijuana to Schedule II or even lower on the scale, is that it would essentially become a prescription drug, impossible to obtain without a doctor’s oversight. In order for marijuana to be sold on the free market, we would need to deschedule cannabis completely – that is – remove it from the Controlled Substances Act. Otherwise, our favorite plant will always be shrouded with a cloud of illegality.
Biden's Anti-Marijuana History
Finally, although this new move may make Biden appear stoner-friendly, refrain from driving over to D.C. and giving him a hug. Biden has been notoriously against drugs, including marijuana, over his decades-long run as a senator. He even criticized President H.W. Bush’s War on Drugs as “not tough enough,” in a TV interview given in the 80s. More egregiously, in 2021, Biden’s White House fired several young staffers for past marijuana use that they had reported voluntarily during the application process after specifically being told that past marijuana usage would not affect their chances at employment. Some of the employees canned had only used cannabis in states where it’s legal. So even though the head of the free world appears to be smiling at the cannabis industry, nobody may really know what his intentions are. Until marijuana sheds its government created stigma of being illegal and dangerous, stoners and medical patients are always going to have to remain a little clandestine. No matter what you hear on TV, make sure to stay safe.
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Featured image: President Biden (C) The Paper Albuquerque