A group of six U.S. senators are pushing the Biden administration to finally use its power and remove cannabis from the list of Schedule 1 substances under federal law. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ron Wyden (D-ORE), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Edward J.Markey (D-MA) sent the urging letter on Wednesday, asking the administration to “use its existing authority to (i) deschedule cannabis and (ii) issue pardons to all individuals convicted of nonviolent cannabis-related offenses.”
In the letter that was addressed to President Biden, Attorney General Merrick Garland, and Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra, the politicians also wrote,” “The Administration’s failure to coordinate a timely review of its cannabis policy is harming thousands of Americans, slowing research, and depriving Americans of their ability to use marijuana for medical or other purposes. We ask that the Biden Administration act quickly to rectify this decade long injustice harming individuals, especially Black and Brown communities.”
Previously senators already sent one letter to the Department of Justice (DOJ) in October, and they obtained the response in April, which they described as “extraordinarily disappointing,”
In the response, DOJ used HHS’s reasoning that “cannabis has not been proven in scientific studies to be a safe and effective treatment for any disease or condition” to explain its lack of progress in this matter.
“But this assertion ignores the ability of the DOJ and Drug Enforcement Administration to begin the descsheduling process and act independently of an HHS determination,” senators wrote. “As we noted in our October 2021 letter, the CSA empowers the Attorney General to initiate proceedings to reschedule or deschedule a drug, either individually or at the request of the HHS Secretary or another interested party.”
Highlights Reasons For Legalization
Further in the letter, senators went on to highlight that marijuana is widely recognized for its medical benefits with The American Nurses Association, American Public Health Association, American Academy of Family Physicians, and New England Journal of Medicine all supporting legalizing cannabis for medicinal use.
The document also pointed to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendation for marijuana reclassification. WHO had suggested all forms of THC to be removed from the drug convention of 1961, placing it with cannabis in Schedule 1, the least restrictive classification by UN standards. Meanwhile, pharmaceutical cannabis medications would be placed in Schedule 3. The UN said yes to the recommendation in the historic vote in Vienna last December.
Senators haven’t forgotten to mention growing public support for marijuana legalization, and also the problems communities of color are dealing with due to the “racist and harmful legacy of cannabis policies,” in the U.S.
“The legacy of the war on drugs is pervasive. It is estimated that over 40,000 individuals are still incarcerated for cannabis related offenses,” they wrote. “A report released by the American Civil Liberties Union in 2020 found that Black individuals were nearly four times as likely to be arrested for cannabis possession even with comparable usage rates amongst individuals of all races. In some states Black individuals were almost 10 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession.”
Recent Signals From Biden
The letter comes on the heels of the Biden administration confirming it will consider safe consumption sites and cannabis decriminalization to address the public health emergency.
The Biden administration will prioritize “harm reduction” as a response to drug abuse while examining information on marijuana legalization and safe injection sites, White House drug czar, Dr. Rahul Gupta, said in June.
“For the first time in history, the federal government is embracing the specific policies of harm reduction,” Gupta told the Financial Times.
"Every life is precious and worth saving. If this Strategy is implemented as intended, we could save 164,000 lives over the next three years, and help tens of millions of people get into treatment and on the path to recovery. The President and I are committed to seeing this through because American lives depend on it," Gupta said in written testimony at a Senate Caucus on National Drug Control Strategy.
As for marijuana legalization, Gupta noted that the White House position should be based on science by analyzing the experiences of the 19 states in the US that have already legalized adult use.
“We’re learning from those states. We’re monitoring the data and trying to see where things go," Gupta said. "But one thing is very clear, and the president has been clear about that. The policies that we’ve had around marijuana have not been working.”
Photo: Benzinga; Source: Shutterstock
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