Dem senators slam Biden for his ‘extraordinarily disappointing’ response to marijuana request

It looks like President Joe Biden’s got something of a miniature revolt on his hands.

The proximate cause of the rebellion is his administration’s refusal to deschedule marijuana. In this case, six progressive U.S. senators have openly criticized Biden and his administration for what they are characterizing as an “extraordinarily disappointing” stance with respect to their demand last year that the substance be removed from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.

This is the category that is reserved for drugs with no known or accepted medical use.

According to Fox News reporting, the senators’ frustration may have had something to do with the delay in receiving a response—it took a full six months for the Department of Justice to respond to their request. When it did so, it was in the form of a terse, half-page reply that merely explained that the Department of Health and Human Services does not recognize marijuana as a safe treatment for any disease or medical condition. This was not what the senators, who are evidently great fans of the drug, wanted to hear.

Six senators—including Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)—sent off an incensed missive to the president taking exception with the Department’s ruling.

“On April 13, the DOJ responded to our October 6 request for the Administration to begin the descheduling process for cannabis,” the letter reads. “The half-page response, which took over six months, was extraordinarily disappointing, noting the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) determination that ‘cannabis has not been proven in scientific studies to be a safe and effective treatment for any disease or condition’ as the sole rationale for the DOJ’s lack of action.”

“Moreover, it is obvious that cannabis has widely accepted medical benefits,” the letter continues, “affirmed by medical and scientific communities both here and across the globe…Medical cannabis helps millions across the country deal with chronic pain, seizure disorders, cancer, multiple sclerosis and a variety of other ailments. The therapeutic properties of cannabis caused by the effects of both the tetrahydrocannabinol-alpha (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) components make it an excellent alternative to highly addictive opiates for pain relief.”

The letter also urged the Biden administration to pardon or commute the sentences of those charged with marijuana-related drug crimes, and claimed that “much more has to be done to address the racist and harmful legacy of cannabis policies on Black and Brown communities.”

During the 2020 campaign, Biden vowed that he would decriminalize marijuana and expunge all marijuana convictions, but action on any of these promises has not been forthcoming. Meanwhile, in April, the Democrat-controlled House voted 220-204 to decriminalize the drug at the federal level, but the legislation hasn’t gone anywhere so far in the Senate.

“The Administration’s failure to coordinate a timely review of its cannabis policy is harming thousands of Americans, slowing research, and depriving Americans of their ability to use marijuana for medical or other purposes. We ask that the Biden Administration act quickly to rectify this decade long injustice harming individuals, especially Black and Brown communities,” the letter concluded.


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Todd Jaquith


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