Merkley Statement on Cannabis Rescheduling

Merkley: “Cannabis has not been descheduled, so we still have work to do.”

Washington, D.C. – Following the Biden administration’s cannabis rescheduling announcement, Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley—a lead sponsor of the SAFER Banking Act—shared the following statement:

“I pushed the Biden administration to make good on the President’s commitment to address the harms done by the criminalization of cannabis and move swiftly to remove marijuana’s Schedule I status, and it’s good to see action taken. The Biden administration rescheduling cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III is welcome news and an important step in the right direction. We cannot let up momentum, though. Cannabis has not been descheduled, so we still have work to do.

“U.S. physician groups, state and national advocates, and broad public opinion all strongly support full legalization. While we continue to push for complete descheduling of cannabis, there are steps we must take in the meantime to protect legal cannabis businesses, users, and community members. Critically, that includes passing my SAFER Banking Act to ensure legal businesses are able to access banking and financial services. We must recognize that banking for many state-legal cannabis businesses will continue to be inaccessible, and forcing businesses to operate in all-cash is an invitation to money laundering and crime in our communities. Previously, Oregon media reported on how the current system has led to a spate of dangerous robberies in our communities. The SAFER Banking Act remains unequivocally necessary.

“As we continue to update cannabis policy to reflect the will of the majority of our country, it is imperative that we also address the harms perpetuated by the War on Drugs and the criminalization of cannabis on communities of color. Without descheduling, criminal penalties will continue to unfairly upend the lives of some Americans while others—mainly wealthy, white Americans—escape legal consequences. Anything less than complete federal legalization will result in enduring harms shouldered by our most vulnerable populations.

“I will continue to push for full descheduling of cannabis, work with my Senate colleagues to pass the SAFER Banking Act into law, and do all I can to champion and pass legislation that centers communities and restorative justice provisions—necessary steps we must take on the path to fully descheduled cannabis.”

Merkley has been a fierce and longtime leader advocating for sensible cannabis reform and cannabis business laws. Merkley is the lead sponsor on the SAFER Banking Act and was also the author of its predecessor, the SAFE Banking Act. Last month, Merkley joined colleagues from the House and Senate in signing a letter urging Attorney General Merrick Garland and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Administrator Anne Milgram to make good on President Biden’s promise to remove marijuana’s Schedule I status. And in January, Merkley joined Senate colleagues in signing a letter urging the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act. In 2022, Merkley joined colleagues from both chambers in a letter to President Biden urging his administration to expeditiously review its cannabis scheduling.