President Joe Biden can grant mass amnesty to people who have violated federal marijuana laws, congressional researchers said in a new report, adding that his administration can also move to federally legalize cannabis without waiting for lawmakers to act.
The new analysis published by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) on Tuesday examines the question: “Does the President Have the Power to Legalize Marijuana?” It’s an idea that’s been raised repeatedly in recent years, including after Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) pledged to take executive action to end prohibition on day one in the White House during his 2020 presidential campaign.
While CRS found that the president cannot in fact deschedule cannabis unilaterally with an executive order, “he might order executive agencies to consider either altering the scheduling of marijuana or changing their enforcement approach.” That includes having federal officials start a process to completely remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) without requiring any additional action from Congress.
Further, the president could also use his pardon powers to either individually, or on a mass scale, grant clemency to people facing charges over federal marijuana offenses, CRS concluded. That blanket amnesty could apply even to people who have committed, but have not yet been charged with, a federal cannabis crime.
The new analysis from Congress’s research arm is welcome news for advocates who’ve been pushing Biden to exercise executive authority to provide relief to people who’ve been criminalized over cannabis, as he previously pledged during the presidential campaign.
“This new report affirms what advocates have long called for when it comes to taking decisive, consequential actions to end the senseless and cruel policy of marijuana criminalization,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal told Marijuana Moment. “Should the Biden administration wish to be in line with the political, economic and moral realities surrounding cannabis policy, it should take action with haste.”
When it comes to federal legalization, “either Congress or the executive branch has the authority to reschedule or deschedule marijuana under the CSA,” the CRS report says. However, while it is not in dispute that Congress has that ability, and the administration can take action to reclassify cannabis out of Schedule I to a different category, some analysts have questioned whether the executive branch can completely deschedule the drug under current statutes.
The attorney general can initiate a process to push for the rescheduling of marijuana under the CSA by requesting a scientific review directly to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Under HHS, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would then assess the scientific, medical and public health implications before submitting that review to the Justice Department.
To Read The Rest Of This Article By Kyle Jaeger on Marijuana Moment
Published: November 04, 2021
Founder & Interim Editor of L.A. Cannabis News