Biden Administration Intends to Propose Loosening of Marijuana Regulations



The U.S. Justice Department is planning to ease restrictions on marijuana, a move which would reflect the Biden administration’s effort to liberalize marijuana policy in line with increasing public support. Though it doesn’t decriminalize the drug, this decision could affect laws and regulations regarding cannabis use and possession, potentially influencing banking, sentencing guidelines, and access to public housing. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland is expected to recommend that the government change marijuana’s classification from a Schedule I to a Schedule III drug, which would reduce restrictions on its production, research, and prescription by doctors.

The Justice Department to Ease Marijuana Restrictions

The Justice Department is set to propose amendments to marijuana policy restrictions, initiating a crucial modification in federal policy towards the drug’s safety and medical usage, as per sources. This move echoes the Biden administration’s attempts to liberalize marijuana laws to align with public opinion.

Implication for the November Election

This decision aligns well with President Biden’s electoral strategy, as a recent CNN poll indicates he trails the presumptive Republican nominee, former President Donald J. Trump. The move could impact other legal aspects related to cannabis, including sentencing guidelines and access to public housing.

Drug Classification and Implications

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland is expected to suggest modifying marijuana’s classification. Marijuana, for over half a century, has been a Schedule I drug, on par with substances like heroin with no accepted medical use. Relocating marijuana to Schedule III would subject it to fewer production and research restrictions, and it could be prescribed by doctors.

Political Benefits of Easing Marijuana Restrictions

Easing marijuana constraints could potentially rally younger voters and appeal to criminal justice advocates urging Mr. Biden to revise the nation’s drug policy. Despite initial hesitation, Biden has hinted at changes to the drug’s status.

Public Opinion and Impact on the Cannabis Industry

Public support for relaxing marijuana restrictions has grown, with a Gallup poll revealing 70% of Americans favoring its legalization, up from 50% in 2013. However, the immediate impact will be on the cannabis industry itself.

Federal Law and State Laws

While 38 states, the District of Columbia, and three territories have approved its use for medical reasons, the D.E.A.’s move does not align state laws on using medical marijuana with federal law.

Benefit for the Cannabis Industry

The cannabis industry could significantly benefit from the recommended change. It would qualify state-licensed businesses for a substantial tax cut, likely reducing prices for consumers and freeing up millions for ventures like hiring, expansion, and product development.

Rescheduling Marijuana and Its Impact

Moving marijuana to a Schedule III drug removes restrictions and allows businesses to claim deductions for expenses like rent, payroll, and marketing. However, it is unclear how this change would affect businesses’ access to financial services, given the risk of money laundering.

Policy and Politics

The federal government last considered rescheduling marijuana during the Obama administration. A decade later, as more states decriminalize the drug and make it available for medical use, the industry has pressured the federal government to reassess that decision.

Biden’s Stand on Marijuana

During his 2020 campaign, Mr. Biden vowed to decriminalize cannabis and pardon nonviolent drug offenses. A significant shift from a president who has not supported marijuana legalization and championed aggressive drug laws during his senatorial tenure.

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