U.S. President Joe Biden briefly mentioned marijuana reform during last week’s State of the Union address, lifting industry hopes that cannabis rescheduling is on the horizon.

Biden pointed to “directing his cabinet to review the federal classification of cannabis,” as well as “expunging thousands of convictions for the mere possession.” 

In October 2022, Biden called on Xavier Becerra, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to initiate a review process for the classification of cannabis. Since then, the HHS has recommended that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration reschedule cannabis from Schedule I – where it exists alongside heroin, ecstasy and LSD – to Schedule III. 

At the same time, Biden announced plans to pardon Americans with federal simple marijuana possession convictions. However, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, a pardon is “an expression of forgiveness” and not the same as expunging a conviction.

Though Biden did not specifically discuss rescheduling cannabis or federal legalization, the fact that he mentioned cannabis reform served as a positive sign to cannabis industry members.

“Tonight, we are so grateful to have witnessed, for the first time in history, a U.S. President advocating for cannabis reform during a State of the Union Address,” Wana Brands posted on LinkedIn. “There’s a long way to go, but we are grateful to POTUS for moving us toward Federal change – and even more grateful to the courageous activists who have made this moment possible.”

Charlie Bachtell, co-founder and CEO of Cresco Labs, also lauded Biden’s “reaffirmation of his commitment” to cannabis rescheduling.

“This level of support for cannabis reform is unprecedented and sends a clear message from the President to his cabinet that this is a priority for his administration and to stay focused on getting rescheduling done,” Bachtell said. “This momentum behind cannabis reform across the country and across party lines continues to reaffirm cannabis reform is a good policy and good politics. We will continue our efforts to drive federal reform making sure no one goes to prison for a cannabis offense in the future – and to build a safe, equitable and legal cannabis industry for our country.”

The National Cannabis Roundtable also thanked Biden for “continued commitment to advancing federal cannabis reform.”

“The President’s remarks at tonight’s #SOTU should send a clear message to federal agencies & Congress that moving forward common-sense cannabis policies is a priority and action is long overdue – from Drug Enforcement Administration rescheduling to #SAFEBanking and ultimately, ending federal prohibition,” the organization posted on LinkedIn.