ACLU Applauds President Biden’s Announcement to Reclassify Marijuana, Calls for More Reform

May 16, 2024 4:30 pm

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WASHINGTON – President Biden announced today that he plans to reschedule marijuana into a category of controlled substances that have a currently accepted medical use and only a moderate to low potential for dependence, in line with recent reforms at the state level and growing scientific research. The rescheduling would move marijuana from a Schedule I substance (with drugs including heroin) to a Schedule III substance (with drugs including Tylenol with codeine).

The American Civil Liberties Union applauds the rescheduling, but more must be done at the federal and state levels to undo the decades of harm inflicted on individuals and communities due to unjust marijuana policies. Today’s announcement by President Biden is an important step towards basing federal marijuana policy on evidence instead of fear.

“President Biden’s decision to reschedule marijuana is the most significant step any American president has taken to address the harms of the war on marijuana. This was a hard-fought win that could not have happened without the tireless advocacy of a decades-long movement for justice,” said Cynthia W. Roseberry, director of policy and government affairs at the ACLU’s Justice Division. “While it is an incredibly encouraging step in the right direction, the rescheduling does not end criminal penalties for marijuana or help the people currently serving sentences for marijuana offenses. It is time for the federal government to further reduce prosecution of marijuana and instead put more resources towards investments that help communities thrive.”

“State and local officials should follow this move by the president to scale back and reduce the harms of the war on marijuana in their state and move to decriminalize marijuana. Americans want policies that repair the communities torn apart through over-criminalization and over-policing. Restorative policies include those that prioritize commercial marijuana licenses for formerly incarcerated people, grant clemency to those convicted under unjust drug laws, and expunge criminal records so people have a fair shot at redemption,” Roseberry added.

At the state level, extreme racial disparities in arrests for marijuana possession persist throughout the country. A Black person is still at least three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person, even though Black and white people use marijuana at similar rates. These racial disparities in marijuana possession arrests exist across the country: in every state, in counties large and small, urban and rural, wealthy and poor, and with large and small Black populations.

“Congress must pass comprehensive legislation that addresses drug policies that have been selectively and disproportionately aimed at Black and Latine communities for decades,” said Nina Patel, senior policy counsel at the ACLU’s Justice Division. “Millions of Americans have lost their right to vote and are locked out of opportunities to seek housing, employment, and education as a result of racist and punitive marijuana policies. Passage of the Senate-led Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA) and the House-led Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act would remove federal criminal penalties for marijuana and provide criminal history record clearing and necessary investments in communities disproportionately targeted for criminalization.”

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