What Joe Biden’s Presidential Victory Means For Marijuana In 2021
February 14, 2021
online dispensaries that ship.Publish 3 months ago
on November 9, 2020
online dispensaries that ship.Joe Biden
has been project to have won the presidential
election by several major news organizations.
If that sticks when all the votes are certified,
and if he fulfills a key campaign promise once
he gets to the White House, federal marijuana
reform will be part of his administration’s legacy.
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Although the Democratic former vice president
has embraced decriminalizing cannabis
possession, expunging past records and
other modest moves, he has faced criticism
during his time in the Senate. And reform
advocates have similarly taken him to task
over his refusal to join the
of those in his own party in embracing broad
adult-use marijuana legalization.
But the political dynamics that will define
marijuana policy in 2021 go beyond the presidency.
Despite the stated pro-reform positions of
both Biden and his running mate,
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA)—who has her own
questionable record on cannabis criminalization
but became the sponsor of a comprehensive
legalization bill in 2019—the fate of reform still
rests largely on Congress.
But it’s unclear at this point which party will
control the Senate next year, with news outlets
still not ready to project the results of several
races and two Georgia seats appearing to be head
for January runoffs.
Democratic leaders have pledged an end to
federal marijuana prohibition, and if the party
wins the majority, the stage will be set for
But if Republicans maintain control of the Senate,
there will be serious doubt about what kind of pull
a Biden administration could have in moving
marijuana legislation—even if he prioritized the
issue, which remains to be seen. The past two
years have shown time and again that the
GOP-control chamber is simply unwilling to
address the issue in a meaningful way.
Unlike President Trump, Biden has said on the
campaign trail that his administration
and expungements for people with prior cannabis
convictions. He also favors medical cannabis
legalization, modestly rescheduling marijuana
under federal law and letting states set their
own policies without federal intervention.
“We should decriminalize marijuana,”
adding, “I don’t believe anybody should be
going to jail for drug use.”
But at that same event, he again offered his vision
for an alternative to incarceration for drug
crimes that many advocates oppose
In any case, the likelihood of marijuana reform
under a Biden administration seems more
promising than if Trump were to be reelect
, if not for anything but the lack of clear commitments
the incumbent has made on the issue during
his last four years.
While Trump has voice support for medical
cannabis and says he is in favor of bipartisan
legislation to protect states that legalize marijuana
from federal intervention, he has not pledge any
specific reforms himself. Nor does it seem he has
push Republican lawmakers
to prioritize the issue.
As note, Biden will also be join by Harris when
he enters the Oval Office. The senator—who
has been criticize over her former prosecutorial
record pursuing low-level cannabis cases as a
California district attorney and for campaigning
against legalization in her own state—became
the lead Senate sponsor of a comprehensive bill
to end federal prohibition last year.
She made much of the need to legalize cannabis
during her own unsuccessful run for the 2020
Democratic presidential nomination. However,
her statements on the issue have been temper
since she agree to run alongside Biden, choosing
instead to focus on his more limit decriminalization
and expungements plan.
Harris said last month that she has a “deal” with
Biden to candidly share her perspective on a
range of progressive policies he currently opposes,
including legalizing marijuana, but she hasn’t
indicated that she would proactively push him in
that direction. The senator also said that month that
the administration would have
expunging the records of people who have been
convict of marijuana offenses.”
Even so, given Biden’s former hostile approach to
drug policy as a legislator and his ongoing
obstinance on marijuana legalization at a time
when polls show that the overwhelming share
of Democrats favor the policy change, there remains
some skepticism about his willingness to make
good on his campaign promises to prioritize
decriminalization or the other reforms he’s discuss.
He did proudly author the infamous 1994 Crime
Bill—legislation that increase penalties for
drug-related crimes and is consider a main facilitator
of mass incarceration—after all, as well as several
1980s-era anti-drug bills. That record is a point
that Trump’s reelection campaign had seize
Biden, for his part, has conceded that his work on
That say, shortly after becoming
the party’s 2020 nominee, the former vice president’s
ongoing opposition to recreational legalization is
suspect of being at least partly behind the
Democratic National Committee platform
committee’s vote against adding the reform
as a 2020 party plank in July.
So it may be incumbent upon Congress to advance
broad legalization after he
And the likelihood of that happening will hinge
largely on the makeup of the Senate.
If Democrats reclaim control of the chamber,
those chances will be significantly bolstered.
Senate leadership in this current Congress has
been oppose to taking up reform. Senate Majority
Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), for example, is an
adamant opponent of loosening laws on marijuana,
all but ensuring that reform bills would not stand
a chance in his chamber even as he has champion
hemp legalization. Even modest House-passed
legislation focused on banking access for cannabis
businesses never received a vote.
With Democrats back at the reigns, they would be positioned to bring any number of cannabis bills that have been introduced to the floor, including those calling for the end of federal marijuana prohibition. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the current top Democrat in the chamber, who would be expect to be installed as the majority leader come January if the party wins enough of the outstanding races, say last month that he will put his own descheduling bill “in play” and that “I think we’ll have a good chance to pass it.”
Leadership in the House, which is expect to maintain a Democratic majority, albeit a reduce one, has already signal their intention of advancing cannabis reform.
The chamber was expect to hold a floor vote on a comprehensive legalization bill—the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act—in September, but it was ultimately postpone after certain centrist Democrats argue the optics of passing the bill will be bad for them before approving another coronavirus relief package. Leadership has since committed to voting on the legislation, which also contains provisions to fund programs to repair some of the harms of the war on drugs, later this fall.online dispensaries that ship
With a Democratic-control
Senate and the party still in control of the House, it stands to reason that cannabis reform would move in the 117th Congress, even if the pace of that reform and the administration’s role in promoting it remain uncertain.
But if Republicans maintain their majority, the party’s approach to cannabis to date does not indicate leaders would be ready to embrace far-reaching reforms such as the MORE Act. That said, it is possible that banking-focused marijuana legislation—which despite its having stalled so far in the Senate, has significant bipartisan support among the rank and file in both chambers—could move.
It is also not entirely out
of the question that a scaled-down proposal to simply protect people complying with state marijuana laws from federal interference—likely without the social equity and restorative justice components of Schumer’s bill or the MORE Act—could see the light of day. That possibility is boost by the fact that voters in several Republican and swing states approved cannabis ballot measures on Election Day. Sen. John Thune (R-SD), the party’s whip, for example, now represents constituents who voted to legalize both recreational and medical marijuana by solid margins.
That said, the most vocal GOP advocate for marijuana reform in the Senate won’t be returning to Capitol Hill next year. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), who unsuccessfully led efforts to convince his party to allow cannabis legislation to come to the floor for a vote in the 116th Congress, lost his reelection bid. With him not being around to prod McConnell to consider the issue, it would be up to other lawmakers—perhaps Sens. Steve Daines (R-MT), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) or Rand Paul (R-KY)—to make the case to leaders that the issue is a winning one worth advancing.
Outside of Congress, Biden
could also make moves to advance cannabis reform administratively.
He could, for example, reinstate a version of the Obama-era Justice Department memo that directed federal prosecutors to generally not interfere with state marijuana laws, which was rescinded by the Trump administration in 2018. It is also within the power of the executive branch to reschedule marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act. Biden has pledged to make a move to Schedule II, though that would not achieve many of the changes advocates seek.
The president has the unilateral
authority to grant acts of clemency, including pardons and commutations, to people who have been convicted of federal marijuana or other drug offenses. He also gets to appoint an attorney general, drug czar and other officials who will make decisions on how the federal government handles the issue—though many of those officials will be subject to Senate confirmation.
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For his part, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) told Marijuana Moment in August that “the Biden administration and a Biden Department of Justice would be a constructive player” in advancing legalization.
But in the end, while Biden
has come around to the idea of removing criminal penalties for marijuana possession, and he is now advocating for clearing the records of those who’ve been punish for such crimes, his longstanding record of opposing reform and embracing punitive drug policies continue to leave questions about what actions he’ll be willing to take post-election.online dispensaries that ship
He remains out of step with the majority of his party and U.S. voters more broadly on the question of legalization, and it doesn’t seem likely that cannabis reform would be at the top of his agenda. That said, his recent pivot in favor of decriminalization and medical cannabis legalization indicates that he recognizes that a tough-on-crime approach to drugs is no longer politically acceptable to voters and signals that further evolution in his position on cannabis is possible.
Nearly seven in 10 Americans
now support legalizing marijuana nationwide, according to a Gallup poll released on Monday. Overall, 68 percent of respondents say they favor legalizing cannabis for adult use, which is “Gallup’s highest reading” since the firm start polling voters on the issue, it says. Last year, the survey found 66 percent support … Continue readingSeven In Ten Americans Support Marijuana Legalization, New Gallup Poll Shows
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