Change (May) Come at Last? Biden Announces Review of Marijuana Scheduling and Mass Pardons for Simple Marijuana Possession


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Budding Trends

Yesterday, President Joe Biden made two historic announcements which he described as steps to “end” the federal government’s “failed approach” to marijuana. First, he is issuing mass pardons for federal convictions of simple marijuana possession and has encouraged governors to do the same for state-level marijuana offenses. Second, President Biden ordered Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra “to initiate the administrative process to review expeditiously how marijuana is scheduled under federal law.”

Time will tell how expeditiously this administrative review of marijuana scheduling takes place. But, if marijuana is de-scheduled, the impact to the cannabis industry cannot be understated.

  • It would pave the way for more financial institutions to serve the cannabis industry by removing much of the anti-money laundering regulatory risk that comes with banking cannabis clients today.
  • It would remove the primary barrier to selling cannabis across state lines, which could lead to cannabis supply chains that spread across states, rather than just within them.
  • And while the federal government has not shown interest in prosecuting state-legal cannabis operators to date, those operators will surely welcome the removal of the sword of Damocles (federal prosecution) that currently hangs over them.
  • Other, unstated implications of de-scheduling abound.

We have more editorializing to do on this announcement, but given its importance, this first post needed to come quickly. More to come next week.