Colleagues Call On Joe Biden To Change Cannabis Laws

When Joe Biden was elected last year, the cannabis industry raised up its arms in celebration. After four years under Donald Trump, many believed that legalizing cannabis at the federal level would be low-hanging fruit for the incoming president, who during his campaign claimed he stood for decriminalization and descheduling. 

Fast-forward one year and faith in Biden on cannabis policy has fallen flat, and for good reason. Just two months after his inauguration, reports emerged that several White House staffers had been suspended for admitting to prior cannabis use, even if they had used cannabis in legal states. 

Since then, a long list of Democrats have called out Biden for being out of step with the party, even though his history has always been the real indicator of where he stands on cannabis—firmly to the right of his colleague (although he has suggested publicly that he doesn’t see cannabis today through the same lens he did as a senator). 

For Biden, cannabis is simply not a priority, despite repeated calls from colleagues to deal with the issue more swiftly—something he has the power to do as president.

Though it’s far from the first time she’s brought up the president’s reluctance to make changes to cannabis policy, the latest politician to call on Biden to take executive action on cannabis is Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). In February, she was one of 37 senators to sign a letter to Biden asking that he grant mass pardons. It remains unanswered. 

In November, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) wrote a letter to Biden urging him to grant mass pardons for “all individuals convicted of non-violent cannabis offences, whether formerly or currently incarcerated.”

In an interview after the letter was sent to the president, Warren said Biden could do what the letter requested “with the stroke of a pen.” The senators are not the only ones who have called on the president to issue pardons. In September, a group of more than 150 celebrities, athletes, politicians, law enforcement professionals and academics signed a letter urging for the same. 

Rather than supporting expungement or even the descheduling of cannabis, something he led voters to believe during his campaign, Biden only supports the rescheduling of cannabis to a Schedule II drug. (Other schedule II drugs include fentanyl and cocaine.)

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