White House Marijuana Comments Are Out of Step with Public Opinion

NORML criticized statements made today by White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, who reiterated the President’s position that cannabis should be rescheduled under federal law (to Schedule II) rather than descheduled (removed) from the Controlled Substances in a manner similar to tobacco and alcohol.

“It is impractical at best and disingenuous at worst for the Biden campaign to claim that rescheduling cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule II – the same category as cocaine– would in any way address the existing inconsistencies between state and federal marijuana laws,” said NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri. “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.”

The Press Secretary also failed to provide explicit answers to direct questions regarding whether the President would sign legislation into law descheduling cannabis or permitting banks to work with state-licensed marijuana businesses. Yesterday, members the House of Representative passed for the fourth time legislation to explicitly permit financial institutions to partner with licensed cannabis enterprises.

On the political implications: 

The majority of Americans want marijuana to be legally regulated for adults, as is indicated by the following national polls:

Quinnipiac University, April 2021

Do you think that the use of marijuana should be made legal in the United States, or not?

  • Overall: 69% Yes – 25% No 
  • Democrats / 78% Yes
  • Republicans / 62% Yes
  • Independents / 67% Yes

Pew Research Center, April 2021

Percentage who say marijuana should be legal

  • For medical and recreational use: 60%
  • For medical use only: 31%

For other national and polls, click here. 

On the policy implications: 

NORML believes that rescheduling cannabis under federal law is impractical and counterproductive. Most Americans want cannabis treated in a manner similar to alcohol, which is unscheduled under federal law; they do not desire to have cannabis regulated like either cocaine or oxycodone, both of which are currently classified as Schedule II controlled substances. 

Furthermore, rescheduling cannabis to Schedule II would continue to maintain the ongoing conflict between state and federal laws, as all state-specific legalization schemes are currently incompatible with those mandated for Schedule II substances – all of which are dispenses solely in pharmacies and are illegal to possess absent a physician’s written prescription. 

By contrast, Congress has recently descheduled low-THC cannabis plants. In December 2018, Congress enacted legislation removing low-THC (below 0.3 percent) cannabis crops from the jurisdiction of the Controlled Substances Act. This change in policy established dual regulatory authority over the regulation of hemp to both the federal government (e.g., the United States Department of Agriculture) and the individual states. Descheduling cannabis altogether would be consistent with this existing policy and many of the state/federal regulations already established by this policy change.

To read NORML’s memo on the practical functionality of the Controlled Substances Act, which lays out the need to remove marijuana from the CSA all together, click here. 


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