Biden talks marijuana in ‘historic’ speech but gives no rescheduling update

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Marijuana reform garnered only a brief mention during President Joe Biden’s annual State of the Union address on Thursday night.

But after many fruitless years in Washington DC, even a name-check was enough to encourage and energize the U.S. cannabis industry.

“This was an historic moment,” David Culver, the senior vice president of public affairs at the U.S. Cannabis Council, which represents major marijuana industry interests on Capitol Hill, told MJBizDaily on Friday.

“(Biden) decided to mention his efforts on cannabis reform on a national stage. That, first and foremost, is the most important thing in my mind.”

The president’s “speech is an acknowledgement that cannabis reform is not only inevitable, but wildly popular,” retiring U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat and co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, said in a statement.

“The issue helped deliver Biden the White House in 2020 and further progress will do it again in 2024. There is more to do as we work to remove marijuana as a Schedule I substance and end the failed federal prohibition.”

However, there’s still no clear timetable for the next step in the Biden administration’s effort to reclassify marijuana under federal law.

And, as a result, there’s also no word as to when the $34 billion U.S. marijuana industry might enjoy the tax reform expected to accompany rescheduling.

A drug-war sponsor while in the Senate, Biden, as president, has declared punitive policies a failure.

And, in October 2022, he launched an unprecedented administration-level review of federal marijuana law.

A subsequent recommendation from health regulators to reschedule marijuana from Schedule 1 to Schedule 3 of the Controlled Substances Act – the first-ever admission by the federal government that cannabis has medicinal value – is still under U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration consideration.

Biden’s State of the Union address did not offer any updated timetable on when the DEA might rule.

However, the president did tout his “directing my Cabinet to review the federal classification of marijuana” as part of his first-term criminal justice reform accomplishments.

He also noted that as recently as December, the White House moved to expunge “thousands of convictions for mere possession, because no one should be jailed for using or possessing marijuana.”