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Congressional Researchers Say, Biden Administration Can Legalize Cannabis Without Lawmakers

December 6, 2021

Congressional researchers reported that President Joe Biden could grant amnesty to people who violated federal cannabis laws. They also said in a report that he and his administration could federally legalize marijuana without lawmakers’ actions. 

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) published a new analysis that investigates the question: “Does President Biden have the power to legalize marijuana?” The issue has been raised frequently in recent years, including when Senator Bernie Sanders promised to end restrictions during his presidential campaign in 2020. 

CRS found that Biden cannot legalize cannabis unilaterally with the executive order. However, researchers reported that “he might order executive agencies to consider either altering the scheduling of marijuana or changing their enforcement approach.” That includes starting to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) without any additional actions from Congress.

Moreover, the president has the power to pardon people who face indictments of marijuana-related federal crimes, CRS stated. This measure could apply to people who have committed a federal marijuana-related crime but have not been convicted of it. 

The CRS analysis is good news for advocates who have been pushing President Biden to use executive power to provide relief to people convicted of consuming cannabis, as he promised during his presidential campaign.

“This new report affirms what advocates have long called for when it comes to taking decisive, consequential actions to end the senseless and cruel policy of marijuana criminalization,” Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director, said. “Should the Biden administration wish to be in line with the political, economic and moral realities surrounding cannabis policy, it should take action with haste.”

The CRS reported that “either Congress or the executive branch has the authority to reschedule or deschedule marijuana under the CSA” when it concerns legalization on a federal level.