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Tipsheet

Dem Senators Turn on Biden Over Cannabis Policy

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

A group of Democratic senators expressed their extreme “disappointment” with the administration’s federal policies on cannabis.

In a letter to President Biden, Attorney General Merrick Garland, and HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra on Wednesday, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Ed Markey (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) praised the administration's recent pardons and commutations for non-violent cannabis-related offenses but said more needs to be done “to address the racist and harmful legacy of cannabis policies on Black and Brown communities.”

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The lawmakers also addressed a letter Booker and Warren sent to Garland last year asking him to begin the process of declassifying cannabis as a Schedule I drug. Not only did it take more than six months for an answer, but the senators criticized the “extraordinarily disappointing” half-page response, which pointed to HHS’s determination that “cannabis has not been proven in scientific studies to be a safe and effective treatment for any disease or condition.”

The lawmakers argue the excuse ignores DOJ and the Drug Enforcement Administration’s role in beginning the descheduling process, which can happen independent from an HHS determination. 

They also claimed “it is obvious that cannabis has widely accepted medical benefits, affirmed by medical and scientific communities both here and across the globe.”

Additionally, the Democrats asked about another letter they sent last year that went unanswered, calling on the president to pardon those convicted of non-violent cannabis offenses.

“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,” the lawmakers concluded. “We ask that the administration act quickly to rectify this decade long injustice harming individuals, especially Black and Brown communities.”

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