Whether you like it or not, Joe Biden has officially begun his term as the 46th President of The United States of America—so what does that mean for federal cannabis legalization?
So far, not much. That being said, it seems that cannabis reform is indeed on his long list of to-dos, if not one of his top priorities, as more and more Americans come out in support of its legalization. In fact, the American Trends Panel reports that an impressive 91% of Americans now believe that cannabis should be legal, if even just for medical use. That’s a major difference from years past.
Who knows what could be causing this change of tide in the hearts and minds of Americans everywhere, but what we do know is that it’s about damn time. As we head into four years of newfound optimism with Joe Biden at the helm of this nation, JARS is here to breakdown exactly where #46 stands and where the future of cannabis could be heading.
What exactly is Biden’s stance on weed?
No one is going to come out and say that Biden is weed’s biggest fan. Through most of his political career, Biden has shown a less than lukewarm welcome to Mary Jane—it’s more accurate to say that he was completely anti-marijuana. However, as Biden’s policy positions are continually poked to the left by more liberal schools of thought, the latest developments seem a bit more promising.
In fact, Politico reported last February that Biden had “kinda, sorta, almost” endorsed marijuana legalization by saying, “I think it is at the point where it has to be, basically, legalized,” and that he did not consider it “a gateway drug.”
While that is an improvement from almost any of our past Presidents, his campaign promises were hardly as progressive as some of his fellow Democrats. He instead called for decriminalization in place of legalization, as well as removing marijuana from the Schedule I list, expunging a handful of drug-related criminal records, and blocking federal interference in states with legalized weed—again, an improvement, but not exactly full-blown legalization.
Decriminalization sounds pretty, but in reality, it doesn’t prevent people from being stuck with hefty fines and it certainly does not stop the over-policing of Black and brown neighborhoods where folks are disproportionally targeted for minor drug offenses. So while federal marijuana decriminalization would have some benefits, like reduced sentencing, it still blocks many BIPOC from profiting off an industry where many, mostly white people, are able to thrive, even though they were locked up at radically disproportional rates for decades because of it.
For many, this is a serious oversight that Mr. President needs to consider very carefully.
So, will weed be legalized under President Biden?
The short answer is maybe.
As reported by the Atlantic last year, it seems that Joe (is it cool if we call you Joe?), is waiting for some cold-hard facts on weed before making any major moves on the subject. While we are all in support of some conclusive cannabis-centered research, instead of the promising-but-inconclusive results we have today, quality research takes time. Any conclusive results could be a long way off.
However, Biden is now also tied to a Democratic-majority Congress that seems to be open to changing federal law. In December, the House passed the MORE Act, a major marijuana decriminalization bill, which is now headed to a blue-majority Senate (shout out to Stacey Abrams and Georgia voters) for its final vote. If the MORE Act passes, Biden himself will have little to do with the process other than signing the bill into law.
What that means is that marijuana will almost certainly be decriminalized under Biden’s presidency with a Democratic-controlled Congress at his side. This is great news, but it still remains unclear just how far legislation will go to address social equity and make reparations to communities, like our beloved Detroit, beaten down by the decades-long War on Drugs. Only time will tell what this bill will entail to make sure that our past wrongs are righted.
Nonetheless, cannabis legalization forges on.
While the feds seem to be dragging their feet on making cannabis legal, the states are moving forward with their own regulated markets with or without them.
As of early 2021, 35 states plus the District of Columbia have voted to allow medical marijuana use—15 of which have made it legal for recreational use, too. In the last election alone, New Jersey, South Dakota, Montana, and Arizona all voted to go green in 2021. As a result, more and more states are beginning to drool over legalization themselves as they see legalized states rolling in some serious dough brought in by the cannabis cash cow.
Although the future of cannabis is still up in the air…
It’s clear the federal government is finally starting to mull over the idea of cannabis reform, if not full-on legalization across the board. President Joe Biden may or may not have influence over the final result, but his open-minded approach does seem to give the industry hope for what’s next. Keep your eyes peeled with us at JARS for all the latest updates.
Joe Biden is President Now: What does that mean for cannabis legalization?