Bipartisan lawmakers urge Biden to deschedule marijuana

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On the heels of failed cannabis banking reform, a bipartisan group of 24 federal lawmakers asked President Joe Biden on Thursday to “recognize the merits of full descheduling” of marijuana.

Marijuana remains a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which Congress passed and President Richard Nixon signed into law in 1970.

The law classifies marijuana as addictive as heroin and LSD with no medical value.

Worse for the $33 billion marijuana industry is that the status also means marijuana businesses:

  • Can’t deduct typical businesses expenses on their taxes.
  • Are not allowed to file for federal bankruptcy protections.
  • Can’t qualify for federal agricultural programs.
  • Are too high risk for institutional investors.
  • Are denied typical services provided by many banks.

The 24 lawmakers reminded Biden that in October he launched the first formal review of marijuana’s status under the CSA, which they called “a crucial and overdue step” that nevertheless must be followed with more action.

“Marijuana does not belong in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, a classification intended for exceptionally dangerous substances with high potential for abuse and no medical use,” the lawmakers wrote.

“The decision to schedule marijuana was rooted in stigma rather than an evidence-based process, and it is time to fully remedy this wrong.

“While Congress works to send you a comprehensive legalization bill, the administration should recognize the merits of full descheduling.”

Twenty Democrats and four Republicans – including members of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus – signed the letter, including U.S. Sens Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts; Cory Booker, D-New Jersey; and Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon.

While Biden has said publicly many times that he believes “nobody should be in jail” for using marijuana, he has stopped short of advocating for comprehensive reform, such as full legalization or even rescheduling.

Biden made history in November when he signed a bill clearing hurdles to research cannabis, the first marijuana-focused reform bill signed into law.

However, many other federal cannabis reform proposals failed to even receive a full hearing in Congress, let alone a vote.

“We expect the Departments of Health and Human Services and Justice to continue to expeditiously conduct your directed review of marijuana’s scheduling,” the lawmakers wrote.

“While Congress works to send you comprehensive cannabis legislation, the urgency of full descheduling should inform the Administration’s position on overall cannabis reform.”