President Joe Biden is receiving a lot of attention for his inaction regarding the federal laws on cannabis despite filling cannabis activists with hope for its future during his campaign. Now, U.S. representatives of both parties are getting involved. On Dec. 16, Rep. Don Young (R-AK) and his co-chair, Rep. David P. Joyce, of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus wrote a blunt letter to Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
Young and Joyce are asking the administration for changes in the federal drug laws that control cannabis as a Schedule I substance. In their letter, the pair called on the administration to downgrade cannabis from its harsh classification under the Controlled Substances Act that outlines the regulatory status of various drugs.
In the one-page letter, Young and Joyce begin by stating, “Currently, cannabis is classified as a Schedule I substance, alongside significantly more dangerous substances such as heroin and LSD, and above far more dangerous drugs such as morphine, methadone and cocaine in the Schedule II category.”
The letter goes on to explain why this classification is a legitimate issue since “cannabis is not accepted for medical use on the federal level, which has caused significant research restrictions and continues to thwart the treatment of a wide range of patients, including those suffering from cancer as well as veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to those living with Multiple Sclerosis and seizure disorders.”
Young and Joyce also question the federal government’s motives, stating, “To be clear, we do not negate the benefit of traditional therapies, but question why the federal government continues to bar access to innovative, proven—and in many cases—safer alternatives.” Despite the restrictions on research as a result of the Schedule I classification of cannabis, researchers have made many remarkable strides in proving the efficacy and safety of cannabis on the aforementioned conditions.
While Biden is receiving a lot of heat as a result of his inaction, many feel it is deserved. In his campaign trail, he was crystal clear when he stated, “I think we should decriminalize marijuana, period. And I think everyone—anyone who has a record—should be let out of jail, their record expunged, be completely zeroed out.” So why has nothing changed?
Young and Joyce’s letter places a lot of importance on being able to benefit from the therapeutic properties of cannabis as well as being able to get better—and more—data. However, the letter does not make mention of the expunging of records nor the criminal penalties which are currently associated with the drug classification of cannabis. The pair conclude their letter by stating:
“We can appreciate when leaders come from different concerns and priorities. But, with nearly two thirds of Americans in agreement on the need for federal cannabis reform, your administration must begin to seriously engage on the topic, regardless of where you stand. Your continued silence speaks volumes.”
According to Anchorage Daily News, this is not Young’s first letter to authorities regarding cannabis. Young was part of the group of lawmakers who wrote a letter to the head of the Department of Veteran Affairs in an attempt to get “expanded access to medical cannabis for former service members receiving care through the VA.”
Young has even supported various legislation pieces on cannabis through the last year, many of which include bills to remove cannabis from federal control. Anchorage Daily News states that when Young was asked whether the bills are likely to pass Congress before 2022, his spokesperson, Zack Brown, replied, “The congressman (Young) has been here long enough to know that things don’t happen overnight” and that “ultimately, however, perseverance can triumph.”
Brown goes on to state, “The congressman takes a states’ rights position on this and wants to end federal prohibition so that states can pursue legal adult-use cannabis if they so choose, as Alaska did in 2014.”
The Congressional Cannabis Caucus is a group of members of the U.S. Congress that meet to pursue common legislative objectives regarding cannabis. The common goal is to harmonize federal laws that conflict with various state laws that permit medical and recreational cannabis. The caucus was formed in 2017 and is bipartisan, meaning that political parties, especially opposing ones, find common ground, or agree about all or many parts of a political choice.
Lucy Wilcox, the executive director of the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association, responded to Young and Joyce’s letter by stating that it’s a reasonable one. Wilcox explains that those in Alaska tend to “favor initiatives to remove criminal penalties and prohibitions against pot but are leery of efforts to fully commercialize and regulate it federally.”
Considering Biden’s promises about cannabis legislation during his presidential campaign, the requests made in Young and Joyce’s letter are indeed reasonable. Now, the president appears to be as unconcerned with cannabis legislation as all of the presidents before him.
Could you imagine the legacy he would leave behind as the American president who removed cannabis from its federal Schedule I drug classification? If more citizens and politicians plead their case, we just may get to see it happen.
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