The White House says ‘nothing has changed’ with President Joe Biden’s stance on marijuana, declining to say whether he supports Ohio’s vote for legalization this week or supports a new one reform of federal cannabis laws.
At a press briefing Wednesday, a reporter asked White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre whether the administration supported Ohio voters’ decision Tuesday to legalize cannabis for adult use and whether Biden believes “restrictions on marijuana should be eased at the federal level.”
“The president took a position on marijuana about a year and a half ago. Nothing has changed there,” Jean-Pierre said.
“I’ll leave it up to the people of Ohio to decide how they’re going to move forward with their own Constitution, but I’m just not going to talk about it any further,” she said. said. “We have been very clear.”
The press secretary misrepresented the vote slightly because the cannabis measure was a statutory initiative that could be changed by the legislature, while Ohioans separately passed an abortion rights measure that is enshrined in the State Constitution.
Regardless, the president has expressed support for allowing states to set their own cannabis policies, although he is consistently opposed to federal legalization of adult-use . That said, just over a year ago, Biden ordered an administrative review of federal marijuana regulations – a process that led the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to recommend moving cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is currently conducting its share of review before making a final decision on the timeline.
Although advocates were encouraged by Biden’s review directive, as well as the massive marijuana pardon he issued last year, they pushed him to do moreincluding a call to the president explicitly endorse the end of federal cannabis prohibition.
So far, he has been unwilling to do so, despite plummeting poll numbers ahead of the 2024 presidential election and overwhelming public support for legalization. a record 70 percent of Americans now support legalizationaccording to a new Gallup survey.
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Biden has has repeatedly promoted its guidelines on cannabis pardons and scheduling as evidence that he is working to keep his marijuana promises, but he has often exaggerated the scope of the relief by suggesting it has helped free people from prison and led to expungements of criminal records .
In September, the White House cited mass pardon and timeline review ordered by Biden as part of a “Fight for Our Freedom” campaign intended to “mobilize young people” in the run-up to next year’s elections.
In July, the White House drug chief said the president’s moves to reform marijuana last year were part of an effort to create a coherent cannabis policy within a patchwork of state legalization models.
The Department of Justice also began issuing marijuana-related pardon certificates to provide people with documentation that they have received formal forgiveness.
Meanwhile, Biden has not personally commented on the HHS cannabis rescheduling recommendation, but the White House press secretary said in August that the president was “very clear” that he “has always supported the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes.”
Of course, it’s not accurate to say that Biden has “always” supported cannabis reform. As a senator, he defended several pieces of legislation that intensified the war on drugs.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Wednesday that Ohio’s vote to legalize marijuana in the ballot was one of the latest examples of how Americans reject “MAGA extremism” and he added that he is committed to continuing to work on a bipartisan basis “to continue to move forward on bipartisan cannabis legislation as soon as possible.”