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Monday, Dec 6, 2021
Mugglehead Magazine
Cannabis & psychedelics industry news based in Vancouver, B.C.
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Legalization

Biden administration has options to legalize weed: congressional report

Support for legalization remains high, a new poll shows, with more than two-thirds of Americans in favour

Biden administration has options to legalize weed congressional report
Photo Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons

The Biden administration has several options at its disposal to end cannabis prohibition and grant amnesty to people convicted of federal marijuana crimes, according to a non-partisan congressional report.

On Tuesday, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a document detailing how the president can influence the rescheduling of weed and change the approach to enforcement.

Meanwhile, American support for legalization remains high.

“Although the president may not unilaterally deschedule or reschedule a controlled substance, he does possess a large degree of indirect influence over scheduling decisions,” reads the report.

Despite federal laws prohibiting weed since the 1970s and the fact states can’t actually legalize cannabis, nearly all states have changed their laws to allow for the use of medical pot, and 18 states and the District of Columbia have legalized the recreational use of weed.

Regardless of state legalization efforts, all “unauthorized activities” involving weed are federal crimes anywhere in the U.S. as long as federal legalization remains in place.

“This new report affirms what advocates have long called for when it comes to taking decisive, consequential actions to address our failed federal prohibition,” said NORML political director Justin Strekal, in a statement.

“Should President Biden wish to acknowledge the political, economic, and moral realities surrounding cannabis policy, and fulfill the promises he made on the campaign trail, this report lays out a clear roadmap for how to do so.”

In the latest Gallup poll looking at support for legalization in the U.S., American support remains strong at 68 per cent.

Read more: 83% of Americans deem war on drugs a failure and support new approach, poll shows

Read more: Biden switching stance on weed use sets ‘dangerous precedent’

Biden’s indirect influence over weed regulations

President Joe Biden can take one of the several available paths to change how weed is treated south of the border, according to the report.

While limited on unilaterally descheduling weed, the president does possess “a large degree of indirect influence” over the decision.

For instance, Biden could appoint agency officials who favour descheduling cannabis or use executive orders to direct the relevant federal agencies to consider administrative descheduling of the plant.

“The notice-and-comment rulemaking process would take time, and would be subject to judicial review if challenged, but could be done consistently with the CSA’s (Controlled Substance Act’s) procedural requirements,” continues the report.

He could also work with Congress through an amendment to deshedule weed.

Congress has the power to remove or scale back federal restrictions on cannabis. Congress could also limit the enforcement of federal weed laws without amending the CSA.

“The CSA is a statutory regime, and Congress has the ultimate authority over what substances are subject to federal control,” reads the report.

U.S. Capitol and Senate fountain from a distance

A standalone SAFE Banking Act hasn’t been able to clear the U.S. Senate. Image via US Capitol Flikr

Similarly, Biden can’t alter the penalties for controlled substance offences, but has power over how the law is enforced.

“The president may grant a pardon at any time after an offence is committed: before the pardon recipient is charged with a crime, after a charge but prior to conviction, or following conviction. The power is not limited to pardons for individual offenders: the President may also issue a general amnesty to a class of people,” reads the report.

Read more: Ohio program teaches cannabis offenders to legally grow

So, Biden could grant clemency for some or all past federal weed-related charges without changing the CSA.

But the current or future administration could still scrap the amnesty policy and clemency powers are only for federal charges, not offences under state laws.

Another route is for the president to direct the Department of Justice (DOJ) to not prosecute some or all weed-related offences.

Under the Obama administration, it was suggested the DOJ not prioritize enforcement of low-risk activities, including personal use of medical pot, but that guidance was rescinded under the Trump administration.

“Like the pardon power, DOJ prosecutorial discretion would limit prosecution only for federal offences, and would provide no guarantee against future changes to DOJ’s enforcement policy,” reads the report.

While there are currently several bills aimed at legalizing cannabis at a federal level — some being revisited numerous times without success — and that include expungement of most weed-related records, their success is still an uphill battle and Biden has been opposed to legalization.

In July, White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed “nothing has changed” related to his views on marijuana.

Read more: MORE Act approved by US House committee, again

Read more: SAFE Banking Act inclusion in defence bill improves odds of passing Senate, lawyer says

 

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