The U.S. will now reconsider why marijuana (popularly known in the U.S as maryjane) is characterized like heroin. In one of the main strides toward cannabis law change, President Joe Biden declared on Thursday September 6 that he would pardon all U.S. citizens convicted of federal marijuana possession.
Biden, who is somewhat liable for America’s cruel drug laws, also asked the Office of Department of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to survey “speedily” how maryjane is planned under government regulation.
Presently, weed is delegated a schedule 1 drug, alongside heroin and LSD, a class held for opiates with a high potential for abuse and no clinical value.
“Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana,” Biden said in a statement. “It’s time that we right these wrongs.”
While Biden’s declaration flags a significant change in how Cannabis is seen at the government level, the White House is as yet following 19 states where weed is legitimate for anybody more than 21 and 37 states where it is lawful for medical use. The state-regulated industry is estimated to bring in $30 billion in sales this year.
The symbolism of Biden’s executive order is far greater than the immediate effect—particularly for people of color. While cannabis use is essentially equal among Black and white people, Blacks are nearly four times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession.
The White House estimates that there are about 6,500 U.S. citizens who were convicted of “simple possession” under federal law between 1992 and 2021. It should also be noted that there are no individuals currently in federal prison solely for simple possession of marijuana, according to the Biden Administration.
A government pardon, however, will help people with criminal records pass background checks for jobs, housing and education. Still, the vast majority of those serving time for possession are in state prisons so President Biden also urged governors to follow his lead, but they do not have to abide by his recommendation.
“We can’t do it alone,” a senior administration official said. “The President is calling on governors to take this action as well.”
And while Biden’s executive order signals his desire to reevaluate how the federal government schedules cannabis, it doesn’t yet move the country any closer to decriminalization—let alone legalization.
What Biden’s announcement means for the cannabis industry is negligible in the short term, except for investor sentiment. Thanks to no meaningful movement at the federal level before Thursday, the stock prices of publicly listed cannabis companies have crashed between 50% and 70% over the last year.
But pot stocks rallied after Biden’s announcement. MSOS, a cannabis exchange-traded fund, is up 38% since Wednesday. Curaleaf is up 40%, Trulieve is up 35%, while Green Thumb Industries is up 45%.
However, some food experts, rescheduling marijuana could lead to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulating the industry, which would be a bad thing for the industry.
The best thing that could happen for the $30 billion cannabis industry is that the federal government de-schedules and leaves it up to the states to decide, which has in some ways been playing out in the country’s state-regulated markets, as the federal government is mostly choosing not to enforce cannabis laws against state-licensed businesses.
With 33 days before the 2022 midterms, many legalization advocates worry that Biden is using pot to score political points. Five states, including Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota and South Dakota will vote on recreational cannabis legalization this November.
Senator Wyden, who applauded Biden’s action on pardoning, politely said that the president’s efforts to get HHS and Attorney General Garland to review marijuana’s schedule on the Controlled Substances Act is a waste of time.
“A review by HHS of how cannabis is scheduled is welcome,” Wyden said in a statement, “but those of us who have been advocating for reform, we already know that a comprehensive federal solution is needed.”