President Joe Biden’s stunning announcement Thursday that he would pardon marijuana offenders and that his administration would reform federal law comes after decades of inaction by Congress despite growing popular support for cannabis legalization.
The House of Representatives earlier this year passed a bill to legalize marijuana but the measure stalled in the Senate amid opposition from Republicans and even some Democrats, such as Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.).
It’s hard to imagine what it would have taken for Congress to ever act on its own to legalize marijuana unless Democrats somehow won a Senate supermajority.
Marijuana reform advocates had instead been rooting for lawmakers to adopt a modest change that would allow marijuana businesses that are legal under state laws to access federally-insured banking services.
The federal Controlled Substances Act since the 1970s has put “marihuana” in the same category as the most dangerous drugs, ones that the government considers ripe for abuse with no possible medicinal use.
Congress could have amended the law but didn’t bother, even as cannabis has become widely used for treating pain, nausea and other health issues.
The president can’t unilaterally change the Controlled