After keeping the country in suspense for nearly two years and attracting plenty of criticism from lawmakers and reform advocates who argued that the his administration was dragging its feet, President Joseph Biden finally announced that he would issue mass pardons for Americans who had been convicted on certain cannabis-related offenses. The move was praised by reform advocates and plenty of citizens as a critical step toward compensating individuals and communities that were disproportionately affected by the war on drugs.
However, a report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) noted that despite the recent developments in cannabis reform, the disparity between federal and state cannabis regulation is growing. The CRS report provides a detailed overview of the limitations of the recent mass cannabis pardon coupled with a more comprehensive overview of developments in state and federal cannabis policy.
The report stated that there have been two major developments in cannabis policy in recent weeks: President Biden’s mass cannabis pardon and voting on state-level marijuana legalization ballot initiatives.
But even though there is a growing disparity in state and federal marijuana regulation, the report noted that federal prohibition has been somewhat stifled by a congressional rider that prevents the federal government from using federal funds to enforce cannabis prohibition.
Still, the CRS believes that there are additional ways to close the regulation gap more effectively, such as asking several federal agencies to do a scientific review of cannabis’s status as a Schedule I drug, which Biden did last month. In a best-case scenario, this review could allow for the reclassification of cannabis in a lower schedule or even its total removal from the federal Controlled Substances Act. Those changes would make it much easier for researchers to study the potential benefits and risks of the plant.
According to the report, the president’s pardon will not include people who were convicted of cannabis offenses at the state level. Coincidentally, this is where a lot of marijuana cases are prosecuted, and even though the president encouraged governors to issue pardons at the state level, the report states that some states do not allow governors to “independently grant clemency.”
The pardon is also restricted to individuals who were convicted of simple possession, which is “relatively uncommon” at the federal level, the report said. The pardon will also be limited to American citizens, excluding noncitizens with cannabis possession on their records, a condition that has garnered criticism from lawmakers and advocacy groups.
Congressional researchers also noted that the pardon will only apply to people who were convicted for simple cannabis possession before it was announced. Furthermore, since the pardon does not expunge cannabis convictions, individuals who were convicted may not be spared the legal consequences of receiving a simple cannabis possession conviction.
Most importantly, the CRS stressed, the pardon does not change marijuana’s status at the federal level. This is unfortunate, because more people should have the opportunity to benefit from the innovative indoor cultivation equipment made by the likes of Advanced Container Technologies Inc. (OTC: ACTX) targeting cannabis cultivation at home and commercially.
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