Senators Are Asking The Attorney General To End Cannabis Prohibition

A legislator out of Congress has been working to enact cannabis legislation. So with this, a pair of U.S. senators is calling on Attorney General Merrick Garland. This calling was to use his own power to quickly terminate federal cannabis prohibition.

Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker sent a letter on Wednesday. This was done to make the case that the Justice Department should initiate a descheduling process. This would be needed to be done to “allow states to regulate cannabis as they see fit, begin to remedy the harm caused by decades of racial disparities in enforcement of cannabis laws, and facilitate valuable medical research.”

“While Congress works to pass comprehensive cannabis reform, you can act now to decriminalize cannabis,” the letter, which was first reported by The News Station, states.

“It is far past time to decriminalize the use of cannabis in the United States,” it continues, noting that President Joe Biden voiced support for marijuana decriminalization and expungements on the campaign trail. The president has maintained an opposition to adult-use legalization, however.

“Decriminalizing cannabis is also a critical first step in addressing the racial inequities in cannabis law enforcement,” the senators said, as people of color are far more likely to be criminalized over marijuana despite comparable rates of usage among races.

“Federal cannabis policy has disproportionately affected the ability of people of color in the United States to vote, to pursue education, and to build intergenerational wealth,” they wrote. “You can begin to repair the harm that the criminalization of cannabis has wrought on communities of color by using your statutory and regulatory authority to deschedule this drug.”

What’s Next For Federal Cannabis legislation

NORML Political Director Justin Strekal praised the senators’ action. To which the director said in an interview that it “is imperative that we pursue every avenue possible to end the senseless and cruel policy of marijuana criminalization. Now the question is: How and when will Attorney General Merrick Garland respond?”

There’s a legal process through which the attorney general can seek a marijuana policy change. The policy change would be done under the Controlled Substances Act without any additional action required by Congress.

The administrator can also begin such a process on their own. He would need to request a scientific examination directly to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Under HHS, the Food and Drug Administration would then assess the scientific, medical, and public health implications. A process that would need before submitting that review to the Justice Department.

A separate process would include having the HHS secretary. As well as involving an outside party needing to file a rescheduling petition. Which would then be examined by the attorney general. The AG is the one who normally assigns that responsibility to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The senators are suggesting the former strategy and insisted that, if the HHS secretary ultimately recommends “retaining a drug in the same schedule or moving it to a different schedule, that recommendation is not binding and the attorney general may still choose to initiate a rulemaking procedure to deschedule or reschedule the drug.”

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Senators Are Pushing For Federal Cannabis Reform

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra was added to the senators’ letter. Furthermore, for what it is, he does have a substantial background supporting cannabis reform. Also, he managed to protect California’s marijuana program against federal intervention during his time as the state’s attorney general.

So with this, a presentation of the important ordinance proposes some questions. These would be questions in regards to whether the attorney general has the explicit authority to unilaterally remove marijuana from the CSA. Versus them only moving it to a lower schedule.

Under federal statute, if international agreements to which the U.S. is a party require control of any given substance, the attorney general “shall issue an order controlling such drug under the schedule he deems most appropriate to carry out such obligations, without regard to” the separate HHS review.

Federal agencies such as DEA have in the past references international treaty obligations as a reason they’re not able to end marijuana criminalization in the USA.

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Final Thoughts On Senators Pushing For Cannabis Reform

It’s also the fact, that the nation has once mocked such international consensus in other circumstances. For instance with things like engagement with the military. Still, as far as what the U.S.’s federal statute permits, one solution would carry a different result. It would imply Garland could be restricted to moving marijuana to the lowest enforcement category. A category under the CSA and could not fully deschedule it on his own.

Garland, who was at one time nominated by President Obama to serve on the Supreme Court. But unfortunately, his nomination was blocked by Senate Republicans. And Garland has only seldom spoken about cannabis issues. Although his judicial record shows that he feels in deference to the DEA in regards to drug scheduling.

During his Senate confirmation processes, the then-nominee also voiced and wrote testimony, He said that it’s a misuse of federal resources to go after people acting in compliance with state cannabis laws. In addition, he also and pointed out racial inequalities in marijuana enforcement.

In any case, Warren and Booker now want him to make a bold move by unilaterally ending federal cannabis prohibition.

“We urge the DOJ to initiate the process to decriminalize cannabis,” the senators wrote. “Doing so would be an important first step in the broader tasks of remedying the harmful racial impact of our nation’s enforcement of cannabis laws and ensuring that states can effectively regulate the growing cannabis industry, including by assisting small business owners and those most harmed by our historical enforcement of cannabis laws.”

Warren and Booker requested that Garland responds to their request by October 20.


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