The Black Mirror-like reality show that is our upcoming presidential election is down to two candidates for the Democratic nomination (one if you believe the national press, though with the COVID-19 crisis upending everything... all bets are off), with the eventual nominee running against the semi-sentient, rotting sack of KFC, Adderall, and dementia that is President Trump.
Where does each candidate stand on cannabis legalization? And what does “legalization” mean at a time when 33 States and D.C. have medical and/or adult use cannabis programs, with those states benefiting from related taxes and jobs?
Some frame it as an incremental process, starting with access to banking services by cannabis businesses, and rescheduling cannabis from a Schedule 1 to a Schedule 2 drug, to allow greater research of its benefits and risks. Others call for full descheduling, releasing those jailed for non-violent cannabis crimes, and nationwide opportunity for easy access to lab tested, verified clean cannabis.
Here is what three wealthy white men over the age of 70 think about cannabis reform. (Captain Bummer here, but this means the views on cannabis reform held by the vice president candidates should be considered. Should the next president pass on while in office, progress on any cannabis reform could be slowed, modified, or scrapped by his next in line. That could be Mike Pence. Think about that.)
Bernie Sanders: Bern one down for Sanders, he’s consistently been on the right side of cannabis for years, and his website clearly lays out a plan for legalization that would meet the checklist of any cannabis advocate.
He states he would legalize cannabis within the first 100 days via executive action, directing his Attorney General to declassify cannabis. With banking services then accessible, the next move would be to expunge all state and federal non-violent cannabis convictions through a comprehensive program to fund the identification of such convictions and their removal.
There’s also a plan to develop a multibillion dollar grant program to assist people and communities of color disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs, and assist in economic development and support for those interested in entering the cannabis industry.
His final plan is to “ensure legalized marijuana does not turn into Big Tobacco,'' through strategies to limit and bar big tobacco from investing, encouraging cannabis businesses to form collectives and non-profits, and banning the marketing of cannabis to children.
Some analysts have questioned to what extent this plan could be implemented, but it speaks to a well thought-out approach to legalization. This is the “Platinum Shelf” level plan.
Joe Biden: The former vice president doesn’t have a stellar track record regarding cannabis. In his defense, my love and respect for Obama doesn’t gloss over the anemic and wanting actions he took on cannabis in his eight years as president, albeit severely hamstrung by House and Senate Republicans who really hated cannabis.
Biden’s website currently has 24 individual plans to address worthy issues and communities. “Cannabis” or “Marijuana” is not mentioned once. He offers a solid plan for the opioid crisis, and diversionary drug courts are referenced, but other than that, nothing.
After supporting the 1994 Crime Bill, which imposed severe punishments for all drug convictions, including cannabis, Biden didn’t capture attention on cannabis until 2010, telling ABC News “I still believe it's a gateway drug. I've spent a lot of my life as chairman of the Judiciary Committee dealing with this. I think it would be a mistake to legalize.”
Nearly 10 years later in 2019, Biden undercut progress he had made on the matter through support of expungement efforts, medical use, and other efforts requested by reform advocates, saying on the topic of cannabis being a gateway drug, “there’s not nearly been enough evidence that has been acquired as to whether or not it is a gateway drug. It’s a debate, and I want a lot more [information] before I legalize it nationally. I want to make sure we know a lot more about the science behind it.”
Earlier this month, he clarified his stance, citing support for decriminalization and expungement efforts, but again stopped short of support for full legalization, citing concern over cannabis exacerbating underlying mental health conditions. So, it’s something.
Donald Trump: Even if he promises a pound of free hash to everyone, he’ll never support any real reform, unless he profits in some way. Get behind me, Mango Satan.