President Joseph Biden has made his views on cannabis quite clear: although he believes in decriminalization and letting states formulate their own cannabis policies, he is an avid opponent of cannabis legalization. Despite that, news coming from the White House reveals that it still recognizes the medical potential of cannabis and that the Biden administration is committed to keeping its marijuana reform promises.
Last week, the White House drug czar acknowledged that cannabis has therapeutic potential as a painkiller. He stated that Biden believed existing federal cannabis policies were ineffective and that the administration was still set on passing incremental cannabis reforms.
Rahul Gupta, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), was answering a variety of marijuana-related questions during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing when the issue came up. Even though the Biden administration has been criticized for failing to keep the cannabis reform promises Biden made on the campaign trail, Gupta said that he is aware of the issues caused by current federal prohibitionist marijuana policies.
When Rep. Ro Khanna asked Gupta why cannabis was still classified as a Schedule I substance with no medical application at the federal level despite a growing body of research showing it can be an effective pain reliever with fewer side effects compared to opioids, he conceded that there was evidence proving cannabis’ efficacy as a pain reliever. However, federal law prevents ONDCP from using federal funds in any contract or study associated with legalizing a Schedule I controlled substance, including cannabis. But marijuana’s inclusion in the schedule is a contradiction as studies have shown it has medical applications, Khanna stated during the discussion.
She asked Gupta if he saw the contradiction between federal law and science and whether it needed to be solved. Gupta stated that the government had to keep looking at the issue from a research and medical use point of view. He noted that current federal cannabis policies “have not worked” and that the Biden administration would try and alleviate these issues via incremental reforms, such as decriminalization and expungements.
Even though the White House drug czar himself acknowledged marijuana’s medical potential, his hands are essentially tied on the matter. Federal law requires that he oppose any efforts to legalize Schedule I drugs such as cannabis.
Either way, the administration has its eye on cannabis reform. Earlier this month, the ONDCP director said in an interview that the Biden administration was actively monitoring states with legal marijuana markets to help inform federal policy.
It will be welcome news to American Cannabis Partners and other marijuana entities when long-awaited federal reforms to marijuana policy are finally passed and implemented, paving the way for a single nationwide market.
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