Politicians aren’t any strangers to creating marketing campaign guarantees. Delivering on these guarantees? Nicely, that’s usually one other story.
Such is the case so far with President Biden’s marketing campaign pledge to reform America’s archaic and unpopular marijuana prohibition legal guidelines.
“Nobody ought to be in jail due to marijuana,” Biden insisted on the marketing campaign path. “As president, I’ll decriminalize hashish use and routinely expunge prior convictions.” Biden additionally supported “the legalization of hashish for medical functions” and promised to “go away selections relating to legalization for leisure use as much as the states.”
But almost a yr into his presidency, the Biden administration has not often a lot as uttered the phrase “marijuana” or taken any substantive motion on the difficulty — other than firing a number of White Home staffers who previously consumed hashish.
The White Home’s continued inertia is puzzling for a number of causes.
For one factor, hashish coverage reform is just good politics. In a tradition of hyper-partisanship, marijuana legalization is likely one of the few points that majorities of Individuals of all political ideologies agree upon.
In accordance with nationwide polling knowledge compiled in 2021 by Quinnipiac College, 69 p.c of adults — together with 78 p.c of Democrats, 67 p.c of Independents, and 62 p.c of Republicans — consider that “using marijuana ought to be made authorized.”
This discovering ought to come as no shock. In 2020, large majorities of voters in each historically blue states like New Jersey and historically purple states like Montana legalized hashish use by adults on the poll field.
Individuals’ help for legalizing medical hashish entry is even stronger, with over 9 in ten adults favoring it.
Furthermore, supermajorities of Individuals equally agree with the president that folks with low-level marijuana convictions ought to have their information expunged — and that the federal authorities mustn’t intervene in states which have legalized and controlled hashish commerce amongst adults.
Whereas the president can’t repeal federal marijuana prohibition on his personal, Biden may nonetheless fulfill a number of of his marketing campaign guarantees even with out the assistance of Congress.
For example, he may grant common amnesty to individuals with federal convictions for marijuana-related crimes. Dozens of members of Congress signed on to a letter final yr calling for Biden to just do that and pardon “all former, federal, non-violent hashish offenders in america.” So far, Biden has failed to reply.
Additional, the president may direct the Division of Justice to train its discretion to not prosecute marijuana-related possession offenses. In October, Senators Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren drafted a letter to U.S. Legal professional Common Merrick Garland asking him to “provoke the method to decriminalize hashish.” Garland has not responded.
Moreover, the president may encourage the Justice Division to reissue steering memorandums — just like these issued beneath Obama, when Biden was vice chairman — making it clear that it’s going to take a “arms off” method to cannabis-related actions which can be authorized on the state degree. (These memos had been later rescinded by Trump.)
Biden may additionally ask the Justice Division to broaden these protections to incorporate marijuana-related commerce amongst contiguous authorized states, in order that state-licensed companies in neighboring states may transport merchandise to and from each other with out concern.
Lastly, Biden may use the facility of the bully pulpit to voice help for a number of of the cannabis-related payments pending in Congress — just like the Marijuana, Alternative, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act, which might empower particular person states, not the federal authorities, to set their very own marijuana insurance policies.
Or the SAFE Banking Act, which might let banks service state-licensed marijuana companies. The latter invoice was authorised by the Home of Representatives this previous spring with the help of 215 Democrats and 106 Republicans. A earlier model of the MORE Act was authorised by the Home in December 2020.
Taking any of those steps wouldn’t solely fulfill a number of of Biden’s marketing campaign guarantees. It will additionally advance insurance policies supported by a majority of Individuals on each the political left and proper.
Paul Armentano is the Deputy Director of NORML, the Nationwide Group for the Reform of Marijuana Legal guidelines, in Washington, D.C. This op-ed was distributed by OtherWords.org.