What did President Biden say about marijuana during his State of the Union?

biden marijuana

For the first time ever, a sitting U.S. president has called out cannabis during the State of the Union. One of the biggest speeches of the year, the address to Congress takes over primetime television, with tens of millions tuning in. 

This year, President Joe Biden made history by touting his actions on weed reform (or lack thereof). The Democrat, who’s up for re-election in November, reminded viewers of his initiative to review the current classification of cannabis at the federal level and his decision to pardon numerous Americans convicted of federal marijuana charges.

The moment came as President Biden discussed his administration’s action to improve safety in the United States, part of a larger section of the speech touting the work done since he took office.

“…Directing my cabinet to review and expunging thousands of convictions for the mere possession, because no one should be jailed for simply using or having it on their record,” President Biden said.

The president reiterated his message on Twitter the next morning, writing, “No one should be jailed just for using or possessing marijuana.” 

It’s important to note that the presidential pardons did not actually expunge criminal records but were “symbolically forgiven,” as Marijuana Moment noted.

While not the first time President Biden or Vice President Kamala Harris has called out the action in public or on the campaign trail, the decision to mention cannabis during the SOTU highlights the issue’s importance to voters. A recent poll found that President Biden’s favorability was boosted by his scheduling directive.

After making his initial proclamation for a review of marijuana’s Schedule I status, the Health and Human Services Department recommended the plant move to Schedule III. The Drug Enforcement Agency, which has the ultimate decision-making authority on cannabis, is currently conducting its own review.

The Schedule III shift would have certain perceived benefits, specifically as it relates to taxes for cannabis operators. If rescheduled, the plant would be regulated under the Food and Drug Administration. However, many cannabis advocates and legislators believe that cannabis should be de-scheduled, meaning it would be removed entirely from the Controlled Substances Act and regulated like alcohol.

The fate of legal cannabis is decidedly hazy, but the mere mention of the plant during the President’s biggest speech of the year is indeed politically meaningful. Many Washington insiders believe some type of reform will happen in the lead-up to the 2024 election, especially since the issue is so important to younger voters—a key demographic for both Democrats and Republicans. At this point, it’s still a wait-and-see.


Rachelle Gordon

Rachelle Gordon is a cannabis journalist and Editor of GreenState.com. She began her weed writing journey in 2015 and has been featured in High Times, CannabisNow, Beard Bros, MG, Skunk, Cannabis and Tech Today, and many others. Rachelle currently splits her time between Minneapolis and Oakland; her favorite cannabis cultivars include Silver Haze and Tangie. Follow Rachelle on Instagram @rachellethewriter