Biden Announces Marijuana Reschedule Move

Stephen Andrews
17 May 2024

President Joe Biden has made it official that his administration is proceeding further with federal marijuana reclassification. The historic White House announcement comes shortly after a confirmation from the Justice Department that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was set to move cannabis from the list of Schedule I to Schedule III drugs.

The Justice Department is due to post its proposed rule to move marijuana to the list of Schedule III substances under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) in the Federal Register, a senior administration official said on Thursday, May 16. This will be followed by a 60-day public comment period before the rule can be finalized. 

Marijuana reclassification follows after an extensive administration review of cannabis, which was motioned by the president in October 2022. 

Moving cannabis to Schedule III will not make it federally legal. However, it will list the plant in a group of softer substances, bring tax relief for state-legal operators, and potentially pave the way for banking reform. 

The president described the move as “monumental” in a video announcement for the reschedule decision. “Today my administration took a major step to reclassify marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule III drug. It’s an important move towards reversing longstanding inequities,” Biden said in the video. 

“Today’s announcement builds on the work we’ve already done to pardon a record number of federal offenses for simple possession of marijuana,” the president said. “It adds to the action we’ve taken to lift barriers to housing, employment, small business loans, and so more for tens of thousands of Americans,” he added. 

Vice President Kamala Harris also followed with a statement. In a separate video, she acknowledged that marijuana is currently classified in a group of drugs that include heroin and more dangerous than fentanyl. 

“We are finally changing that,” Kamala said. “But I want to thank all of the advocates and everyone out there for helping to make this possible and we are on the road to getting it done,” she said. 

A wave of reactions has followed after the White House official announcement on rescheduling cannabis. The move is widely seen as the most significant development in federal cannabis policy in the last 50 years. 

Oregon’s Senator Ron Wyden described it as a “historic step toward ending reefer madness and bringing commonsense to federal cannabis policy,” he said.  “Now it’s time to follow the lead of 24 states and more than half the country by decriminalizing and putting in place small federal regulations,” Wyden said. 

Rep. Congressman Earl Blumenauer said that “marijuana was scheduled more than 50 years ago based on stigma, not science,” and emphasized that this is the way forward to end the failed War on Drugs. “The American people have made clear in state after state that cannabis legalization is inevitable. The Biden-Harris Administration is listening,” he said. 

Unsurprisingly, marijuana opponents have urged DEA to keep cannabis in Schedule I, and are due to initiate legal action as the agency moves forward with implementing the reform. 

NORML advocacy group has repeated its call that cannabis should be removed from the Controlled Substances Act altogether. Its official statement says that state governments rather than the federal government has to have the “the ability to regulate marijuana in the manner they see fit without violating federal law, and allowing the federal government to provide standards and guidelines for regulated cannabis markets.”

Also read on Soft Secrets: 

US DEA to Remove Cannabis from List of Most Dangerous Drugs

Who Doesn’t Want Marijuana Reclassification?

Nevada Enters 2024 with New Weed Limit

Stephen Andrews