Written by Jarell Corley ‘22, Hyde Park, Illinois SSDP Ambassador
As a former medical marijuana activist and current electoral reform advocate, I am passionate about serious efforts to reform outdated policies influencing many aspects of our society; one in particular is drug policy. This article is in response to President Biden’s executive order pardoning all federal offenses of simple marijuana possession. This action definitely caught my eyes as it was an attractive headline, but a little critical thinking led me to realize the effects of the executive order were not as notable as headlines led on.
Upon seeing headlines regarding President Biden’s bold action, I was enamored by the possibility of the federal government taking a step closer to ending the War on Drugs. However, with a little critical thought, I realized how misleading the headlines were as I soon discovered no one is currently serving a federal sentence for simple possession of marijuana. All prisoners serving sentences for simple possession charges are waiting their time out in state prisons, where individual Governors ultimately have the authority over the fate of these prisoners. Upon this realization, my emotions swiftly went from joy to disgust as I saw President Biden’s window dressing as an attempt to appeal to minority communities disproportionately affected by decades of ill advised drug policy backed by our President. Fortunately, my interest in taking on the role of Ambassador for Students for Sensible Drug Policy encouraged me to dive deeper to further understand the ramifications of this executive order. Despite the powerless nature of this executive order over the future of current offenders, the executive sets the tone for a shift in the minds of Americans regarding the opinion of marijuana. Upon conducting further research, I discovered new information reigniting hope from within regarding the future of America’s drug policy.
I soon realized even though this executive order will not instantly reverse the federal government’s stance on marijuana, it will lay a solid foundation paving the way towards a likely future for sensible drug policy. Under this executive order, President Biden is tasking the Department of Justice and the Department of Health to review the scheduling of marijuana under current federal law. Currently, marijuana is classified as Schedule One, which means there is no medical benefit to the use of this drug and that the drug has a high potential for abuse. There has never been a known case of death from marijuana, so the fact that this has a higher classification than a substance used to cut cocaine and has been linked to thousands of deaths is absurd. All of the information regarding the research of the medical benefits of marijuana and cannabinoids fueling legalization efforts around the country have shed light on the absurdity of the Federal government’s stance on marijuana. Hopefully the results of this review will favor marijuana’s rescheduling, which will then allow federal agencies to conduct research on marijuana to further learn about this plant’s medical benefits. Although I wish the President could do more, I believe this action was a move in the right direction and hopefully will inspire further positive changes in the future.
President Biden only has so much authority over policy and the fact that he published an executive order prioritizes this issue. How high of a priority drug policy reform is on Mr. Biden’s agenda still remains questionable considering the timing with midterm elections, but this mandate will get the joint rolling to reschedule marijuana. Rescheduling marijuana would be a big victory towards sensible drug policy and creating a brighter future for those committing victimless crimes. Mr. President, I urge you, act on your promise in a more impactful way.