Last week, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki reiterated the President’s position that cannabis should be rescheduled under federal law to Schedule II rather than descheduled from the Controlled Substances Act.
What does this mean? As our Executive Director Erik Altieri said last week: Rescheduling of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act would continue to make the federal government the primary dictator of cannabis policy and would do little if anything to address its criminal status under federal law. Under such a policy, the majority of states that have legalized cannabis for either medical or adult-use purposes would continue to remain in conflict with federal law.
Tonight, President Biden will be delivering his first major address to Congress and to the American people to discuss his vision and priorities for the rest of his first presidential term. Before he speaks, we want you to take a pointed action so our elected officials in attendance know where the people stand: Tell your federal lawmakers that his Department of Justice should not be able to use your tax dollars to shut down state-level legalization programs.
Congress first took a similar step in 2014 to remedy the federal-state conflict between medical cannabis programs and federal criminalization by approving an appropriations amendment restricting the Department of Justice from using its resources (our tax dollars) to interfere with state-authorized programs. Since its initial approval, this rider has been included in each subsequent annual spending package.
This year, we want Congress to extend those protections to localities that have also legalized the adult use of marijuana. This new proposal is not radical. It simply would remove the word medical from the existing language to expand these protections to the adult-use states (over 40 percent of the US population).
Thanks to a bipartisan group of House members, led by Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D), Tom McClintock (R), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), and Barbara Lee (D), this amendment passed in the House of Representatives not just once, but twice last year! Unfortunately, under the previous leadership in the Senate under then-Leader Mitch McConnell (R) and Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R), the bipartisan effort was stopped. This is a new year with new leadership in the Senate that is much more supportive of cannabis policy reform. That said, we cannot let this issue fall by the wayside.
So send a message right now: tell your members of the House and the Senate to protect state-legalization from the Department of Justice.
We’re going to end federal marijuana prohibition and criminalization; that’s not up for debate — no matter what President Biden or his administration says. But the next step on this journey is to defund the ability of the Department of Justice to enforce it. There is a bipartisan majority in the House who has already voted in favor of this. Let’s move forward by raising our voices together.
Thanks for standing up,
NORML Political Director