War On Weed To Officially Wind Down

[ Posted Tuesday, April 30th, 2024 – 15:52 UTC ]

[Irreverent editorial/karmic observation: One can't help but wonder why this story couldn't have broken ten days ago... on 4/20....]

Today it was confirmed that the federal government is finally going to officially retreat in fighting the War On Weed. The feds are backing down, for the first time in modern history. The Department of Justice is recommending moving marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act to Schedule III, after a required period of public commentary. It is not a complete capitulation in the War On Weed, but it is indeed a historic step in the right direction -- and the first one ever taken. So while this is not the end of the road for the pro-legalization activists, it is an enormous milestone and should be celebrated (even as only a partial victory).

Regular readers know that I have advocated for many years for marijuana to be reclassified in some way. There's a very good reason for this, and the reason is: "the current classification is insane." It just is. Marijuana is considered by the federal government to be more dangerous than fentanyl. That is clearly insane. Nobody's ever died from an overdose of marijuana, but federal law treats it as worse than a whole slew of far more dangerous drugs. Which, again, is absolutely insane.

So what is being proposed is that marijuana will still be considered a prescription drug, but a much more low-level prescription drug -- and crucially, it will become a drug that actually does have accepted medical uses as far as the federal government is concerned (whereas Schedule I drugs don't). While 38 states -- fully three-fourths of them -- have legalized medical marijuana in some form or another, the federal government has so far refused to budge from its position that there simply was no accepted medical use for marijuana at all. Rescheduling will also change things for the better for the growing marijuana industry, since they will now be able to do things like deduct business expenses that every other business in America is allowed to deduct. That is a big positive change right there.

But it won't change the basic dynamic. Even being listed further down on Schedule III means that recreational use will still be completely illegal, as far as federal law is concerned. Some future presidential administration could always attempt to order a big crackdown on recreational marijuana sales in all the states (24 and counting...) which have legalized its use at the state level, and because marijuana will still be on the Controlled Substances Act schedules (and because federal law always trumps state law), there will be nothing to stop them from doing so. Except maybe public opinion -- and the fact that doing so would already be a near-impossible task (because there are so many weed stores now in existence). Or they could even move to reverse what the Biden administration is doing and try to move marijuana back to Schedule I (or perhaps II).

This is why today's news is mixed, at best. The truly sane thing for the federal government to do with marijuana is patently obvious -- hand enforcement over to the "Department of Vice." Because there is indeed a federal department in existence which deals with alcohol and tobacco (as well as firearms and explosives), and this is the obvious natural fit for marijuana as well. The War On Weed won't officially be over until the federal government offers up a complete surrender to reality and de-schedules marijuana entirely. Deal with it the same way as they deal with booze and cigarettes, in other words, because that is the only thing that truly does make sense.

Reactions to today's news were also rather mixed:

"This is going to help to normalize cannabis more than anything that's ever occurred in the U.S. since they started the war on drugs," said David Culver, senior vice president of public affairs at the U.S. Cannabis Council, an industry advocacy group. "This is the most significant federal cannabis reform in modern history, and I think sets us on a path for the ultimate goal of federal legalization."

Other advocates asserted that the reclassification doesn't go far enough. They want to see marijuana removed from the schedule system entirely and regulated like tobacco and alcohol.

Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, an advocacy group, said treating marijuana as a prescription drug would not legitimize how cannabis is available through a vast network of dispensaries and delivery services in legal state markets.

"Those involved in the state legal marijuana industry and the tens of millions of Americans who patronize that industry are all acting in a manner that is inconsistent with federal law," Armentano said. "Theoretically, if the federal government wished to do so, all of these players could be prosecuted for being in violation of the federal law."

So, at best, this is merely a step in the right direction. But it is the first such step the federal government has ever taken, so it's still worth celebrating. Federal law has not achieved full sanity yet, but it's going to be a lot less insane from now on. That's a start, to be sure.

It's worth noting that President Joe Biden was the one to instigate this historic backdown by the feds. Biden was never a pro-legalization kind of guy -- in fact, his history as an enthusiastic "drug warrior" in the Senate is a rather long one, since it stretches all the way back to the days of Nancy Reagan and "Just Say No" and DARE and all the rest of the War On Weed frenzy of the 1980s. Biden is a reluctant latecomer to the idea of treating marijuana in a sane manner, to put this another way.

But Biden acted, when Barack Obama and Bill Clinton didn't. Both Clinton and Obama admitted using marijuana earlier in their lives before they were elected president, but neither one of them lifted a finger to change federal law while they were in office. Clinton, especially, felt threatened by the political fallout of championing sane marijuana policy (he even famously hedged his admission of college-age use, stating rather unbelievably: "I didn't inhale"). But the 1990s were a different time. Obama could far more easily have made this move, as the pro-legalization movement was beginning to score solid gains by the time he was in office -- which meant it wasn't nearly as politically risky for him to have supported legalization at the time. But Obama refused to act.

Biden will go down in history as being out in front of two rather large political wedge issues over the past two decades, when Obama was timid: gay marriage and marijuana legal reform at the federal level. Perhaps Biden is doing so for political reasons (his standing among young voters could certainly use a boost), but this really isn't some hasty election-year ploy -- it has been in the works for years (both the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services had to sign off on the rescheduling for us to have gotten where we now are, and this all took an inordinate amount of time). So Attorney General Merrick Garland didn't exactly wake up today and decide to make the official recommendation out of the blue -- it's been in the works for years.

So while the War On Weed is not yet over, the federal government is now in full retreat. They are backing down. They are admitting that there is a new reality out there. For the first time ever they are moving towards sanity and away from the crazy notion that marijuana is more dangerous than fentanyl. It is going to take years before the feds totally surrender this war, so the battle is not over yet. If Biden wins a second term, he probably won't move to deschedule marijuana during it -- instead he will likely rest on the laurels of what he's already accomplished. It will likely fall to some future president to finally get rid of the archaic notion that federal law should treat marijuana any differently than tobacco or alcohol. That is when the War On Weed will end, and not before. But for the first time in over half a century, at least we will now be moving in the right direction.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


18 Comments on “War On Weed To Officially Wind Down”

  1. [1] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Maybe Joe it’s saving further action for, say, October. He could call it an October surprise.

  2. [2] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Florida, Idaho, Nebraska and South Dakota have weed referendums this November.

  3. [3] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Wish I could "wind down" my weed war. The dandelions and crabgrass are killing me!

  4. [4] 
    dsws wrote:

    Re Elizabeth's take on the Zeihan video -- He seemed more reasonable in this video than I expected. My impression is that Ukraine has about as much of a Nazi problem as the US does: enough that reasonable citizens should be concerned about the state of their/our country, but not enough to justify any outside response.

    As for the possibility of eventual Ukrainian membership in NATO, --

    Kick wrote:
    Since inception in April 1949, the NATO alliance has had an open door policy which does not allow any other country not in NATO to dictate who may be admitted.

    That matches my impression. Biden would imo have been ill-advised to reverse that as an appeasement to Russia. However, there's room for a lot of nuance in how a head of state talks about it. I don't think there was any chance of deterring the 2014 invasion by any means other than actual deterrence. My guess is that it would have been best to have a policy and be clear about it, even if it were a bad policy; and that a good policy would have involved clear deterrence of the full-scale invasion as it developed in 2022, but only mild deterrence of the meddling and limited invasion as it was undertaken in 2014. Going to a state of high-intensity proxy war against a nuclear-armed enemy is not to be done lightly. Almost-plausibly deniable invasion should be met with a response that's strong enough to make the invasion a bad idea, but not much more than that. It's only the 2022 escalation to full-scale, not-at-all deniable invasion that I think should have been met with total destruction of Russia as a regional power.

    Not that total destruction of Russia would have been easy or risk-free, but I think it's well within our ability, even with the need for a boil-the-frog approach.

  5. [5] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Biden would imo have been ill-advised to reverse that as an appeasement to Russia. However, there's room for a lot of nuance in how a head of state talks about it.


  6. [6] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    My impression is that Ukraine has about as much of a Nazi problem as the US does.

    As far as I know, there are no Nazi regiments in the US Army.

  7. [7] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    The last Ukrainian Election saw Nazis win 1.5% off the popular vote.

    So is there anything that you disagree with in the following?

    Russia has long and flat borders its length and breath and not enough productive land to support a population large enough to defend these borders.

    Because of this Russia has been invaded from literally all directions starting with the brutal Mongols in 1250.

    So for four centuries Russia’s geopolitical strategy has been to conquer bordering territories out to the point where they control various geographical “choke points” (e.g. The Baltics, the Vistula in Poland, the Bessarabian Gap in Romania, the Crimea etc.)

    Positioning the Russian military at these choke points ensures the survival of Russia proper.

    Ukraine has many resources (serious oil newly discovered in the Sea of Azov and “breadbasket of Europe” etc) but even more importantly Ukraine is on the way to two choke points. Heck, Putin in 2007 mourned the collapse of the Soviet Union (because they lost control of all nine choke points.

    SO this war was always going to happen.

  8. [8] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Please indicate any part that you disagree with, and why. FYI none cares if you didn’t like Zeihan’s presentation it’s your response to his ideas that I’m interested in.

  9. [9] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Again, as a former part of the USSR Ukraine (still) has corruption problems. Zelenskyy ran on an anti-corruption ticket and won 70% of the popular vote. One could argue that Zelenskyy was every bit as qualified as Saint Ronnie, but he’s exceeded expectations.

  10. [10] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Your willingness to do this, Elizabeth, will advance our discussion on the topic of Joe and Ukraine. If you shine me then we are back to square one which would be a bad result for the community that we call Weigantia.

  11. [11] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Please indicate any part that you disagree with, and why.

  12. [12] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Please don’t shine/ignore me, Elizabeth.

  13. [13] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Poet is Bibi prolonging the war/vengeance to stay in power?

  14. [14] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    I don’t fell very bad about revenge after 7 October. I maintain my belief that a two-state solution is long in the rear view mirror. Would like your commentary.

  15. [15] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Yeah there’s been Israeli ethnic cleaning going back to Dier Yassin 1948 but fuck the world state security is paramount!

  16. [16] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Did you see my lengthy take on the Zeihan video you keep posting about? You have thus far ignored it.

  17. [17] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I thought the time for a 'two-state solution' had long gone but, lately, it seems like it might still have some life. Israeli policy, though, particularly with respect to Jewish settlements, have made it very difficult to imagine a Palestinian state without a sufficient land base.

  18. [18] 
    Kick wrote:

    C. R. Stucki

    Wish I could "wind down" my weed war. The dandelions and crabgrass are killing me!

    Maybe soon you can dig it up and plant cannabis sativa and/or indica. Heh. :)

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