US senators raise heat on President Biden, demand marijuana reform

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A group of U.S. senators is trying to increase pressure on the Biden administration to remove marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act, citing earlier promises of reform.

U.S. Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts are among six lawmakers who sent a letter to the Biden administration on Wednesday, requesting that the executive branch use its authority to decriminalize marijuana.

The letter also asked the administration to issue pardons to “all individuals convicted of nonviolent cannabis-related offenses.”

The letter was addressed to U.S. President Biden, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra.

U.S. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Ron Wyden of Oregon also signed the letter.

Their appeal comes at a time when federal marijuana reform efforts have stalled in the U.S. Senate, where 60 votes are required to pass most bills.

Cannabis industry officials for months have expressed frustration with the lack of follow-through by Biden, who pledged to support some marijuana reform efforts.

Before the 2020 election, a joint Biden-Sanders task force recommended rescheduling marijuana on a federal basis, legalizing medical marijuana nationwide and allowing states to decide about recreational cannabis.

This week’s letter reiterates that two-thirds of Americans support marijuana legalization.

It notes that similar letters written in the fall of 2021 urged Biden to pardon non-violent cannabis offenders and requested that the Department of Justice begin the process of descheduling or rescheduling marijuana.

The senators said they never received a response to the letter to Biden dated Nov. 9, 2021.

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“The administration’s failure to coordinate a timely review of its cannabis policy is harming thousands of Americans, slowing research and depriving Americans of their ability to use marijuana for medical or other purposes,” the letter concludes.

“We ask that the Biden administration act quickly to rectify this decade-long injustice harming individuals, especially Black and Brown communities.”