The Movement To Relax Marijuana Laws Encounters A Headwind

The ongoing push to reduce the strictness of marijuana laws and the penalties for violating those laws has lost some steam. The Biden administration appeared to be quite liberal on the issue of marijuana while on the campaign trail yet the president has since avoided the issue of decriminalizing the plant despite receiving considerable bipartisan support on the once-divisive issue. 

Marijuana Laws Might Remain Unchanged

Part of the reason why the Biden administration is doing its best to avoid addressing the issue of marijuana laws head-on is the fact that the midterm election is approaching.  Power in Congress is up for grabs, meaning if the administration were to appear liberal on the issue of marijuana, it might be a boon for the Republican opposition.  Add in the fact that Congress is sharply divided on this issue and there is even more reason for the Biden administration to simply ignore it until the midterm elections pass.

As of the winter of 2022, slightly more than half of the states in the land of the free and the home of the braved have legalized marijuana for either medicinal or recreational use.  In fact, some conservative lawmakers have gone as far as publicly proposing the decriminalization of the plant.  

If the Biden administration were to move forward with the push for marijuana decriminalization, it would decrease penalties for those caught using it when in a state where its consumption is illegal.  Furthermore, decriminalizing marijuana would also provide the industry with much-needed access to banking services.  At the moment, recreational marijuana dispensaries are required to sell the plant for cash.  

Bipartisan Support Is A Possibility

Though plenty of Republicans are not on board with decriminalizing marijuana, some notable figures on the right side of the aisle have spoken out in favor of reducing penalties and possibly even legalizing the plant across the board.  To be more specific, the former Speaker of the House, John Boehner, has strongly advocated for marijuana decriminalization.  In short, there is hope for the plant’s decriminalization yet it might take several months or even years before significant legal changes are made in the beltway.

Biden’s Commerce Secretary, Gina Raimondo, was recently asked about the failure to fulfill the campaign promise of decriminalizing the plant.  Raimondo was also asked about the potential impact of rescheduling, especially in the context of interstate commerce.  The cabinet member did not delve into details with her answer, merely stating decriminalization is not a component of her current workload so there aren’t any updates.  This is quite the interesting statement considering Raimondo once backed a plan to legalize marijuana.  

Vice President Kamala Harris also has a track record of discussing marijuana reform in a positive light.  Harris hasn’t touched on the topic after Biden’s victory, merely stating that the administration will not prioritize its pledge to reform marijuana.  Harris has pointed to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as the reason for her failure to follow through on the promise to reform marijuana laws.

There Is Hope For Change

The media, marijuana activists and investors in marijuana as well as those interested in investing in psychedelics will undoubtedly put the pressure on Biden to directly address the looming issue of cannabis decriminalization.  Following the midterm elections, Biden will also be asked to make a public statement on marijuana legalization for recreational purposes.  After all, the president campaigned on decriminalizing marijuana, rescheduling it and legalizing it for use in medical settings. 

Stay tuned as the president provides additional clarification on the push for decriminalization in the months ahead.

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