While Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) praised President Biden’s proposed cannabis reforms, the Oregon Cannabis Association (OCA) claimed Biden did the bare minimum. While Biden’s measure will impact about 6,500 people imprisoned for cannabis use, The Last Prisoner Project estimates that upwards of 40,000 people are currently incarcerated for cannabis-related crimes with a significantly disproportionate number of people of color behind bars.
On October 14, 2022, Biden traveled to Oregon to participate in Democratic fundraising events. The OCA issued a statement noting how Biden’s proposal attempts to make it appear as though the administration is working towards meaningful cannabis reform. In their estimation, this kind of performative measure taken right before the midterm elections is meant to lull voters into believing action has been taken.
Biden’s statement on marijuana reform offered three steps.
- Pardoning all prior Federal offenses of simple possession of marijuana.
- Urging all Governors to do the same with regard to state offenses. Just as no one should be in a Federal prison solely due to the possession of marijuana, no one should be in a local jail or state prison for that reason, either.
- Initiating the administrative process to review expeditiously how marijuana is scheduled under federal law.
The Oregon Cannabis Association’s recommendations
As the state’s largest cannabis advocacy organization, the OCA continues to request that the current administration:
1. Release all federal inmates currently serving time for all non-violent cannabis offenses including manufacture and distribution charges.
2. Announce that he plans to deschedule cannabis prior to leaving the White House, and that he will begin building the infrastructure to take this step so when it happens, it is rolled out smoothly and with a focus on supporting equity, environmental justice, long time cannabis participants and small and legacy operators.
Ever since Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) in 1970, marijuana along with heroin and LSD have been classified as Schedule I, which is defined as having no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. (In comparison, cocaine is classified as Schedule II while Ketamine is Schedule III.) Cannabis advocates express concern that cannabis needs to be descheduled, which means removing this drug from the CSA entirely. This move would cannabis would remove allow for medical research into cannabis at the Federal level and remove the stigma associated with cannabis use. They argue that if cannabis is moved to Schedule II or Schedule III, this could potentially jeopardize existing state-regulated marijuana markets.
3. Immediately support banking and 280e reform and actively work with Congress to pass legislation that continues to languish.
The OCA maintains that until no one is in prison for cannabis, their work is not done. This position is held by other cannabis advocacy organizations such as Seattle Hempfest®, who have been advocating on behalf of nonviolent offenders of irrelevant laws who are still behind bars since 1991.