Marijuana Justice Coalition urges the Biden administration to support marijuana descheduling and take executive action on marijuana

April 30, 2024

Today, the Associated Press reported that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is proposing rescheduling marijuana from a Schedule I drug, the most restrictive class, to a Schedule III drug, a less restrictive class. Under this proposed shift, marijuana criminalization would continue at the federal level and most penalties, including those for simple possession, would continue as long as marijuana remains anywhere on the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

On the 2020 campaign trail, then-candidate Biden repeatedly pledged to decriminalize marijuana and expunge related criminal records – identifying these issues as barriers to racial equity. However, the DEA’s proposal would leave most of the harms and racial disparities associated with criminalization unaddressed.

The Marijuana Justice Coalition, which recently participated in the JCC’s Second Chance Month Action Days, issued this letter to the Biden administration earlier this month: “Unfortunately, rescheduling, regardless to which schedule, would maintain the federal criminalization of marijuana and most criminal penalties would remain unchanged. Under rescheduling, mandatory minimum sentences would still apply to many marijuana offenses and noncitizens would remain at risk for deportation for marijuana conduct, while veterans and other patients who rely on state-regulated medical marijuana programs would be forced to break federal law to treat their conditions. However, the CSA gives the DEA discretion to make a different final determination than the HHS recommendation as to the schedule placement of marijuana. If the DEA determines that marijuana will remain in the CSA, your campaign pledge to decriminalize marijuana use will not have been fulfilled.

“To take the next steps towards fulfilling this pledge, you must begin to explicitly support the descheduling of marijuana from the CSA. It is incumbent upon you to call on Congress to pass descheduling legislation, such as the Senate-led Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act
(CAOA) and the House-led Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act. Not only do these bills decriminalize marijuana through descheduling, they include your other campaign pledge on marijuana policy reform – automatic expungements – and establish programming for reinvestment in communities disproportionately targeted by marijuana criminalization. Our coalition endorsed versions of both of these bills because they seek to end federal penalties for marijuana and repair past harms of criminalization. Your support of this legislation could help us pass these bills into law.

“Additionally, your administration can and should take immediate executive action – even while marijuana remains in Schedule I of the CSA – to lessen the harms of marijuana criminalization, such as expanding pardons and commutations for sentences beyond simple marijuana possession, ending marijuana-based deportations, and revising federal agency policies, particularly those involving the collateral consequences of a marijuana conviction.”

Read the full letter at

Before the rule is final, you will have the opportunity to submit public comment to let the DEA know that rescheduling marijuana is insufficient to bring relief to our communities. We will let you know when that opportunity is here.