Does President Biden Have the Authority to Legalize Marijuana?

On October 6, 2022, President Biden made a landmark announcement regarding federal marijuana policy. This proclamation declared a full pardon for all prior federal offenses related to the simple possession of marijuana. However, it’s essential to understand the scope and limitations of this proclamation. It specifically applies to federal convictions, including offenses under the District of Columbia Code, but does not extend to state or local law convictions.

President Biden’s action raises questions about the extent of presidential powers in this realm. According to CRS Reports, while the president can influence federal drug policy, he does not have the authority to unilaterally legalize marijuana. This is because the legalization of marijuana would require changes to the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), a task that falls under the purview of Congress.

President Biden on Marijuana Reform

Alongside the proclamation, the White House also released a statement outlining the administration’s stance on marijuana reform. This includes an acknowledgment of the changing landscape regarding marijuana use and legislation at the state level. In recent years, several states have passed initiatives legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana and regulating its production, processing, and sale.

The Justice Department has responded to these developments by updating its federal marijuana enforcement policy. This adjustment reflects the increasing number of state ballot initiatives and the evolving public perspective on marijuana use.

Furthermore, Congress has seen proposals related to marijuana legalization, such as H.R. 8454, the “Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act.” This act, as reported by the White House, establishes a new registration process for conducting research on marijuana and for manufacturing it for medical purposes.

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Despite these developments, it is clear that the power to fully legalize marijuana rests with Congress, and not solely with the President. President Biden’s recent actions, while significant, represent only a part of the broader conversation and legislative process surrounding marijuana legalization in the United States.

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