Biden Won't Advance Any Cannabis Reform Issues Until After the Midterm Elections
The White House has confirmed that although Biden supports modest federal cannabis reform, he is not planning to take any immediate action on these issues.
Published on September 16, 2022

President Biden is not planning to update any federal cannabis policies before the midterm elections, despite constant pressure from fellow politicians and advocates.

In a recent press gaggle on Air Force One, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that she didn't “have anything else to share” about the president's cannabis reform plans “in the upcoming weeks.” And although she didn't offer a more specific date, her comment suggests that Biden does not intend to address these issues before the election, which is 10 weeks away.

Jean-Pierre did confirm that the president's overall stance on cannabis reform has not changed since taking office. He still reportedly supports states' rights to enact their own cannabis laws and is even willing to federally decriminalize or reschedule marijuana. The press secretary also said that Biden still intends to make good on his campaign promise to expunge prior criminal records and grant clemency to prisoners currently serving time for minor cannabis crimes.

“The president believes that there are too many people serving unduly long sentences for non-violent drug crimes—a disproportionate number of whom are Black and brown,” Jean-Pierre said, according to Marijuana Moment.

The president has continued to reaffirm his cannabis reform plans ever since he was on the campaign trail, but he has yet to take any serious action. In fact, the present administration's overall stance on weed hasn't really differed from the former Republican regime. Since Biden took office, the White House has fired staffers who admitted to smoking legal weed in the past, tried to block Washington DC from legalizing adult-use sales, and even advocated against granting veterans access to medical pot.

Biden has also ignored repeated pleas to grant clemency to the tens of thousands of people serving excessive prison sentences for non-violent marijuana crimes. Activists, celebrities, and politicians have written over a dozen letters to the president begging him to use his executive powers to mass pardon minor drug offenders, but to date he has granted clemency to fewer than a hundred cannabis prisoners. This July, he reiterated that he was “working on” a plan for clemency, but again declined to offer an actionable timetable for these plans.

The Democrats are expected to lose control of one or both chambers of Congress in the midterms, so the upcoming “lame duck” session may be their last chance to enact cannabis reform for the foreseeable future. Lawmakers have circulated several bills that would completely decriminalize cannabis at the federal level, but it doesn't look like these bills have enough support to pass. Instead, it's more likely that Congress will focus on more incremental reform measures, including a bill that would allow banks and other financial institutions to open accounts for state-legal cannabis businesses.

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Chris Moore
Chris Moore is a New York-based writer who has written for Mass Appeal while also mixing records and producing electronic music.
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