It’s time for Biden to deliver on his promises on marijuana – Daily Montanan
This is the case so far with President Biden’s campaign promise to reform America’s archaic and unpopular marijuana prohibition laws.
“Nobody should be in jail because of marijuana,” Biden insisted on the campaign trail. “As president, I will decriminalize cannabis use and automatically overturn previous convictions.”
Biden also supported “the legalization of cannabis for medical purposes” and promised to “leave decisions about legalization for recreational use to the states.”
Yet nearly two years into his presidency, the Biden administration has rarely uttered the word “marijuana” or taken substantive action on the issue — other than firing several White House staffers who previously used marijuana. cannabis.
The continued inertia from the White House is disconcerting for several reasons.
On the one hand, cannabis policy reform is simply good policy. In a culture of hyper-partisanship, the legalization of marijuana is one of the few issues on which the majority of Americans of all political ideologies agree.
According to national polling data compiled in 2021 by Quinnipiac University, 69% of adults — including 78% of Democrats, 67% of Independents, and 62% of Republicans — believe that “marijuana use should be made legal”.
This finding should come as no surprise. In 2020, large majorities of voters in traditionally blue states like New Jersey and traditionally red states like Montana have legalized adult cannabis use at the ballot box.
American support for legalizing access to medical cannabis is even stronger, with more than nine in ten adults supporting it.
Moreover, supermajorities of Americans also agree with the President that those convicted of low levels of marijuana use should have their records expunged – and that the federal government should not intervene in states that have legalized and regulated the adult cannabis trade.
Although the president cannot repeal the federal marijuana ban on his own, Biden could still deliver on many of his campaign promises even without help from Congress.
For example, it could grant blanket amnesty to people convicted by the federal government of marijuana-related crimes. Dozens of members of Congress signed a letter last year calling on Biden to do just that and pardon “all nonviolent former federal cannabis offenders in the United States.” To date, Biden has not responded.
Additionally, the President could direct the Justice Department to exercise its discretion not to prosecute marijuana possession offenses. In October, Senators Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren penned a letter to US Attorney General Merrick Garland asking him to “start the process of decriminalizing cannabis.” Garland did not respond.
Additionally, the president could encourage the Justice Department to reissue policy briefs — similar to those issued under Obama, when Biden was vice president — making it clear that he will take a “hands-off” approach to lawsuits. cannabis-related activities that are legal at the state level. (These memos were later rescinded by Trump.)
Biden could also ask the Justice Department to expand those protections to include marijuana-related trade between contiguous legal states, so that state-licensed companies in neighboring states can transport products to each other. to others without fear.
Finally, Biden could use the power of the bully pulpit to voice support for several of the cannabis-related bills pending in Congress — like the Marijuana Act, Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Wipeout (MORE) , which would empower individual states, not the federal government. government, to set their own policies on marijuana.
Or the SAFE Banking Act, which would allow banks to service state-licensed marijuana businesses. This latest bill was approved by the House of Representatives last spring with the support of 215 Democrats and 106 Republicans. A previous version of the MORE Act was approved by the House in December 2020.
Taking any of these steps would not only fulfill several of Biden’s campaign promises. It would also advance policies supported by a majority of Americans on both the political left and right.