Biden urges HHS to lower penalties for weed possession, use ahead of presidential election

Jean-Pierre claimed President Biden "has always supported the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes..."


Almost 14 months out till the 2024 Presidential election, the Biden administration's Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) asked the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) on Tuesday to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule III drug under the Controlled Substance Act at the request of President Biden. 

According to Bloomberg, a DEA spokesperson confirmed the department received a letter from HHS Drug Enforcement Agency Administrator Anne Milgram with the request, and will now initiate its own review of the drug. 

When asked about the recommendation Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said, "The President asked the Secretary of the HHS and also the Attorney General to initiate the administrative process to review how marijuana is scheduled." 

"The administration process is an independent process want to be very clear on that that is led by HHS and DOJ, it is going to be very much guided by evidence," She added. 

Currently, as a Schedule I drug, marijuana is classified as a "drug with no currently accepted medical use, and a high potential for abuse" and is considered the same legally as heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD,) and ecstasy. 

Under the recommended Schedule III, it would be defined as a drug "with a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence," and placed alongside Tylenol with codeine, ketamine, anabolic steroids, and testosterone. 

Jean-Pierre went on to claim that President Biden "has always supported the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes... consistent with medical and scientific evidence." She added, "That is why it is important for this review this independent review that is going to be again, and guided by evidence." 

President Biden acknowledged in 2019 that he hadn't always gotten it right when it came to cannabis. He said, "I haven't always been right. I know we haven't always gotten things right [regarding incarcerations for marijuana offenses], but I've always tried."

As recently as 2010 he told ABC that he believed it was a gateway drug. "There's a difference between sending someone to jail for a few ounces [of marijuana] and legalizing it. The punishment should fit the crime. But I think legalization is a mistake. I still believe [marijuana] is a gateway drug," the then Vice President said. 

As a Senator during the 1980s and 1990s, Biden sponsored several pieces of legislation that were tough on drugs and drug users. 

In March of 2021, the administration asked all staffers to fill out a background check form and subsequently fired anyone who checked yes to ever trying marijuana even if it was legal in the person's state. 

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