Six Governors Push Biden To Reschedule Pot in Open Letter

Governors wrote that in some states, legal pot has already “thrived for more than a decade.”

Benjamin M. Adams

Governors across America are tired of waiting for President Joe Biden to fulfill his goal to swiftly determine if the country should reschedule cannabis at the federal level—leading six of them to urge the president in a letter to do something after months of inaction.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy urged the president to take action in a letter dated Dec. 5, given that it’s been 10 years since the first states legalized adult-use pot (starting with Colorado and Washington).

Polis led the effort to send the Biden administration the letter. The Governors applauded the president for reconsidering the classification of cannabis and encouraged the federal government to reschedule cannabis. Polis expressed the Governors’ hope that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will reschedule cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III this year. 

This is What Americans Want

Americans overwhelmingly support legal cannabis, Pew Research found. Nearly 88% of Americans said they are in favor of legalization for medical and adult-use cannabis. Doing so, they said, would rectify cannabis’s outdated classification, which is long overdue and puts small businesses and public safety at risk. 

“This decision by a leading federal health agency comes on the heels of 38 states creating their own state markets and complementary regulatory systems. In some cases, these state regimes have thrived for more than a decade, and this recommendation by FDA is a real testament to their success. It’s a signal that FDA and the Department of Health and Human Services [HHS] have faith in state regulators and the regulations that they have promulgated to keep citizens safe,” the Governors wrote.

The DEA only adheres to its own analysis, however, and is not necessarily bound by the HHS’s recommendation, Reuters reported, though many other experts predicted the DEA would act on their recommendation. Only a major administrative action or an act of Congress could create major change towards ending the prohibition of cannabis.

They acknowledged the enormous impact federal law has upon cannabis businesses, forcing them to do business in cash, and also putting them at risk for violent crime, which High Times has documented again and again.

“Economically, rescheduling to Schedule III will alleviate restrictions of Section 280E of the

Internal Revenue Code, allowing cannabis-related businesses to take ordinary business

deductions—just like every other American business,” the letter reads. “Economists estimate that this will save$1.8 billion per year by shifting cannabis companies to a standard federal corporate rate of 21% versus the up to 80% effective tax rate they face now.”

A Cash-Only Business

Rescheduling pot would allow cannabis-related businesses to take ordinary tax deductions, like any other business, and it would not only alleviate financial and safety concerns for businesses but allow the cannabis industry to play a full role in the American business landscape. 

Regulated cannabis that undergoes lab-testing, etc. is safer than alternatives and has been linked to reduced rates of opioid abuse, opioid-related hospitalizations, traffic fatalities, drug treatment admissions, and overdose deaths. 

“There is, and will continue to be, a significant consumer demand for cannabis. That fact will not change regardless of the public policy choices that we make.” The Governors wrote So, it seems obvious and sensible to us to make cannabis as safe as it can be for adult consumers while simultaneously protecting our children. The state-regulated marketplace does just that. If the state-legal marketplace doesn’t survive, then we will see unsafe products on every street corner,” the Governors continued.

Stocks soared as Biden released an announcement on Oct. 6, 2022, urging the of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to consider reclassifying pot, which was the first indicator that it could actually happen.

“I am asking the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to initiate the administrative process to review expeditiously how marijuana is scheduled under federal law.  Federal law currently classifies marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, the classification meant for the most dangerous substances.  This is the same schedule as for heroin and LSD, and even higher than the classification of fentanyl and methamphetamine – the drugs that are driving our overdose epidemic. 

Several months ago, Polis sent a letter to Biden on Sept. 5 regarding the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) recommendation for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to reschedule cannabis from a Schedule I substance to a Schedule III substance.

“We are pleased to hear that you have recently received Health and Human Services’s (HHS) recommendation to move cannabis to Schedule III,” Polis wrote in his letter. “It’s about time.”

Benjamin M. Adams

Benjamin M. Adams is Staff Writer at High Times, and has written for Vice, Forbes, HuffPost, The Advocate, Culture, and many other publications. He holds a Bachelor of Communication from Southern New Hampshire University.

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