President Joe Biden marked the holiday Juneteenth by issuing a proclamation that promotes his mass marijuana pardon and scheduling review directive.
As the country commemorates the emancipation of enslaved Black people, the president’s proclamation touts various efforts by his administration to address racial discrimination, including last year’s cannabis clemency move.
“I have taken action on marijuana reform by pardoning prior District of Columbia and Federal simple marijuana possession offenses and directed a review of marijuana scheduling,” Biden said on the federal holiday, which was established under legislation he signed in 2021.
The president has repeatedly promoted the cannabis actions, linking them to the administration’s racial equity efforts.
Speaking at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day hosted by the National Action Network’s (NAN) in January, for example, Biden said he was keeping his “promise” by providing relief to those who’ve been criminalized over cannabis.
In February, Biden marked the end of Black History Month by giving publicity to the cannabis clemency actions and highlighting the racially disparate impact of marijuana enforcement.
The White House also argued that the president’s pardons could lift social and economic barriers as part of a factsheet that was released ahead of Biden’s State of the Union address in February.
Also that month, the president separately signed an executive order on promoting equity within the White House and federal agencies that also mentioned the earlier marijuana pardons.
Biden issued a proclamation declaring April “Second Chance Month” for people who have served time in prison, and in the document he took the opportunity to promote his marijuana pardons and address the collateral consequences of cannabis convictions.
The pardon affected several thousands of Americans who’ve committed federal marijuana possession offenses, while the administrative review into cannabis scheduling is ongoing.
With respect to the scheduling review, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)—and, specifically the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)—is tackling the first part of the process, assessing the science of cannabis to determine whether it should be removed from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
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HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra told Marijuana Moment last week that he’s hoping to deliver on the president’s scheduling directive by the year’s end.
Congressional marijuana reform leaders said that they are encouraged by that timetable.
“I will be disappointed if we cannot make significant progress within the year,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, told Marijuana Moment. “There should be a greater sense of urgency for this long overdue action.”
Blumenauer also led a letter to Becerra and Attorney General Merrick Garland in March, alongside 15 other bipartisan members of Congress, demanding transparency in the cannabis scheduling review.
Rep. Barbara Lee, another co-chair of the caucus, said this month that the Biden administration needs to take action on federal cannabis scheduling “now,” before the upcoming election.
Once HHS finalizes its review, it will send a scheduling recommendation to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which makes the final call. The health agency’s scientific findings are binding, but DEA could theoretically flout the resulting recommendation.
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