A Look at the Biden Administration’s Stance on Cannabis

Though cannabis is definitely not as taboo as it was several decades ago, its full legalization remains a hotly contested issue in the United States. As of 2022, the use of medical marijuana is only permissible in 37 states, and recreational use is further limited to 19 states.

A Look at the Biden Administration’s Stance on Cannabis

Still, the future of cannabis has taken on an interesting turn since the election of Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. as the country’s 46th president. Biden notably included the decriminalization of cannabis among his campaign promises, echoing the sentiment of many Democrats (as well as some Republicans) to relax current restrictions on non-medical marijuana.

Less than two years into his term, the conversation about issues like prison reform, the growth of the cannabis industry, and increasingly popular services like THC delivery seems to have shifted in unprecedented ways. In this article, let’s take a brief look into the Biden administration’s unfolding stance on cannabis and how it differs from past developments, plus what the president’s recent declarations mean for cannabis’s imminent future in America.

Cannabis Laws in the United States Before Biden’s Term: A Briefer

Under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, which outlines US federal policy on the possession, manufacturing, and distribution of certain drugs, marijuana—or cannabis that possesses more than 0.3% of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the plant’s psychoactive component—currently retains a Schedule I classification. This is the strictest classification according to the law, and on the same tier as drugs like lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and heroin.

Over the past decade, however, restrictions have been eased on the enactment of cannabis research and the production of industrial hemp with low THC content. The Agricultural Act of 2014 permitted state-level agriculture departments and universities to cultivate cannabis for research purposes, and the Farm Bill of 2018 permitted the growth of industrial hemp, or cannabis explicitly manufactured for industrial or medicinal use, at the federal level.

During the Trump administration, which directly preceded Biden’s, oversight of both medical and recreational cannabis use was left largely to state governments. But cannabis had no dearth of champions in the US Congress. One noteworthy example that occurred before Biden’s term was the 116th Congress’s H.R. 1588, or the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2019.

Key Developments on Cannabis in the United States During President Biden’s Term

That said, President Biden is thought of by some as a trailblazer for cannabis legislation. In October of 2022, Biden opened a broader discussion on the following:

Reclassifying Marijuana from Its Current Schedule I Status

Biden has recently called for a review of marijuana’s classification as a Schedule I drug through the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE Act). Such a review, plus any consequent developments in favor of de-scheduling marijuana, may open many doors for cannabis businesses. Ease on the federal level means that businesses might one day be listed in major US stock exchanges and be eligible for financing and other forms of mainstream support from the US banking system.

Pardoning Federal Offenses for Simple Marijuana Possession

President Biden also issued a mass pardon on the federal level for Americans convicted of simple marijuana possession, which does not constitute a violent offense. The pardon has been received as good news for the ongoing movement to reform the US justice system, as drug enforcement policy for marijuana possession has disproportionately affected Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) citizens for a long time.

Heightened Support for Cannabis Research

The Biden administration’s “research before regulation” stance has also signaled positive developments for cannabis-related academic research. Movements to support cannabis research more extensively are already underway in states like California and Colorado, and these could increase as Biden’s term goes on.

Other Developments in US Cannabis Law

Apart from the developments detailed above, there are continuing efforts in both the public sector and in civil society to turn the conversation on cannabis around. The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act was introduced in the Senate in July of 2022, and a lobbying group called the US Cannabis Council (USCC) formally kicked off operations in 2021.

Thus, on top of advocating its own stance, the Biden administration has created a conducive space for bipartisan discussions to happen on the topics of cannabis regulation, cannabis research, and legitimate business done in the cannabis industry.


Key to President Biden’s stance on leading the national conversation on cannabis is his goal to “right the wrongs” of America’s former zero-tolerance approach to marijuana. As current events have since indicated, the emphasis seems to be on research, consultation, and upending archaic perceptions on cannabis use.

The effects on the US’s growing cannabis industry, as well as on members of the general populace who use cannabis for either medical or recreational purposes, is yet to be seen. Though some cannabis businesses have already experienced an uptick in their orders as a result of President Biden’s comments, it’s still too soon to tell how these new developments will affect the US’s federal economies as well as its overall national economy.

One thing’s for sure: discussions on legalizing marijuana entirely and strengthening the country’s regulation mechanisms for the substance will continue—and they will be less hampered by the prejudices of the past.

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