Joe Biden has ordered a review into the classification of cannabis in a move that could have far-reaching implications for the industry.
The US president also pardoned thousands of Americans for simple possession of cannabis in the first tangible sign that the Biden administration is taking a genuinely more liberal approach to the drug.
In a statement, Biden said he was ordering a process to “review expeditiously how marijuana is scheduled under the federal law”.
As it stands, cannabis sits alongside heroin and LSD under the US regulatory framework, a fact noted by Biden as he instructed the review.
“Federal law currently classifies marijuana in Schedule 1 in the Controlled Substances Act, the classification meant for the most dangerous substances,” he said. “This is the same schedule as for heroin and LSD and even higher than the classification of fentanyl and methamphetamine – the drugs that are driving our overdose epidemic.”
In addition to the classification review, Biden pardoned those convicted on federal offences of “simple possession” – thought to number 6,500 – and urged all state Governors to do the same.
“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,” he said.
The White House later confirmed that no-one is in federal prison for “simple possession”. But the pardons will make it easier for people to get jobs, housing, and education, the president said.
Despite the positive developments – which emerged just a month before the mid-term elections – Biden made it clear that, as federal and state regulations change, “important limitations on trafficking, marketing and under-age sales should stay in place”.
Bod Australia, which distributes CBD product in the US, welcomed the news.
Chief executive Jo Patterson told Cannabiz that a reclassification of cannabis could pave the way for new opportunities across the Pacific.
“There may be an opportunity to communicate with customers about the benefits,” she said. “If it’s reclassified at a federal level it will also be less complex from a banking perspective.
“The classification has also stopped big brands getting involved in a big way.”
Creso Pharma chief executive and managing director William Lay said President Biden’s announcement “marks a major step towards the potential for legalisation in the US”.
“While decriminalisation at a federal level may take some time, Creso Pharma has been building a very strong foundation to capitalise on the potential US market,” he said.
“We plan to leverage our existing business divisions in Sierra Sage Herbs and Mernova to capitalise on the opportunity and are actively assessing a number of M&A opportunities in the country to cement a broader footprint.
“Further, we anticipate that any positive legislative change will provide the catalyst for major US institutions to increase exposure to the sector, potentially underpinning our NASDAQ dual listing.”
“I look forward to providing ongoing updates as Creso Pharma continues to push towards a US recreational cannabis market entry.”