Marijuana Rescheduling Odds Remain Long Despite Presidential Pardons

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Marijuana Rescheduling Odds Remain Long Despite Presidential Pardons

The odds of marijuana being rescheduled in the federal Controlled Substances Act remain long. That’s despite President Joe Biden this week announcing pardons for thousands of Americans convicted of “simple possession” of the drug.

cannabis marijuana Schedule 1 Biden pardon
cannabis marijuana Schedule 1 Biden pardon
President Joe Biden this week issued pardons for people federally convicted of “simple possession” of marijuana. But cannabis, bettors say, will remain a Schedule 1 narcotic for the foreseeable future. (Image: NORML)

Biden yesterday announced pardons for people who have faced federal prosecution for possessing cannabis, which the Controlled Substances Act maintains is a Schedule 1 narcotic — the same classification as heroin, LSD, and ecstasy. Schedule 1 narcotics, per the federal government, “have no currently accepted medical use” and have a “high potential for abuse.”

Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana,” the president declared. “It’s time we right these wrongs.”

But righting those wrongs, political bettors believe, won’t include reclassifying cannabis on the federal level.

Odds Remain Long

Political betting exchange PredictIt last year launched markets on the odds of cannabis being rescheduled. That’s after Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York), the Senate’s top Democrat, unveiled a proposal to decriminalize marijuana.

Schumer in July 2021 said rescheduling marijuana would be “a priority in the Senate.” But more than a year later, the Senate has not voted on a bill to strip cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug.

The US House of Representatives passed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE Act) in 2020. The legislation removes cannabis as a Schedule 1 narcotic in the Controlled Substances Act and eliminates federal criminal penalties for an individual who manufactures, distributes, or possesses marijuana.

The Senate doesn’t have the benefit the House does of being controlled by Democrats, the party that is much more willing to consider removing cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act. The Senate is instead deadlocked amid a party split, hence the inaction of the MORE Act in the upper congressional chamber.

With Republicans remaining unwilling to take up the cannabis debate, PredictIt bettors don’t believe the chances are good that cannabis rescheduling will occur before 2023.

“Will marijuana be rescheduled under the Controlled Substances Act in 2022?” has “yes” shares trading at just 11 cents.

However, those shares have climbed 2 cents since Biden announced cannabis pardons. More than 27,000 shares of the market were traded yesterday.

There are two avenues to rescheduling cannabis. Either Congress can pass legislation to reschedule the drug, or federal courts can rule that the government’s classification is illegal.

The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York City last month considered a lawsuit challenging the federal classification. Numerous states have ruled that cannabis indeed has medicinal purposes. But the appeals court ruled that while cannabis being a Schedule 1 narcotic might be “irrational,” it is not unconstitutional.

Employment, Housing Relief

Biden’s pardon will ease the process of gaining employment, housing, and education for those who have federal cannabis convictions.

“My action will help relieve the collateral consequences from these convictions,” Biden said.

The presidential pardon does not cover convictions for possession of other drugs, or for convictions related to producing or possessing marijuana with an intent to deliver. Noncitizens who have been convicted of simple cannabis possession are also not included in the pardon.

The Justice Department in the coming weeks will issue certificates of pardons for those included in the mass amnesty.

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