Most Americans Want Full Weed Legalization, But Biden's Task Force Doesn't Advise It
The task force, created in partnership with Bernie Sanders, does advocate for decriminalizing pot and mass-expungement, but not legalizing adult-use cannabis — only medical marijuana.
Published on July 10, 2020

Two-thirds of Americans want to put an end to cannabis prohibition, according to Newsweek. Even so, a criminal justice task force co-created by Joe Biden did not include federally legalizing weed among its recommendations to the Democratic presidential candidate.

The task force was co-created by Biden’s former campaign rival Bernie Sanders. The Vermont senator does advocate full federal legalization for adult cannabis use — as do five of the eight individual members of the task force.

Regardless, a 110-page policy document issued by the task force just effectively reiterated Biden’s existing stance on the issue. Biden has come out in favor of decriminalization and legalizing medical marijuana on a federal level, but would leave recreational weed laws up to individual states.

Earlier in his campaign, Biden said cannabis should be rescheduled and the country should move away from putting people in jail for marijuana-related offenses. “[Cannabis] should be changed to a Schedule II drug. We should move in a direction to make sure it’s not a criminal offense, it’s a civil offense. Any conviction at all for marijuana now or in the future or in the past, your record should be wiped clean. It’s not something that is going to send anybody to jail.”

I think we can all agree that his statement demonstrates progress. But, to consider cannabis an “offense” of any kind is still a sign of his insidious Drug War mentality. As of now, the task force has made the following recommendations:

- Decriminalize marijuana use and legalize marijuana for medical purposes at the federal level.

- Allow states to make their own decisions about legalizing recreational use.

- Automatically expunge all past marijuana convictions for use and possession.

- Lift budget rider blocking D.C. from taxing and regulating legal marijuana and remove marijuana use from the list of deportable offenses.

- Encourage states to invest tax revenue from legal marijuana industries to repair damage to Black and brown communities hit hardest by incarceration.

Responding to the policy document, Bernie Sanders tweeted: “Though the end result isn’t what I or my supporters would’ve written alone, the task forces have created a good policy blueprint that will move this country in a much-needed progressive direction and substantially improve the lives of working families throughout our country.”

Erik Altieri, Executive Director of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws (NORML), took umbrage with the findings and stated, "It is impractical at best and disingenuous at worst for the Biden campaign to move ahead with these policy proposals. Rescheduling of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act would continue to make the federal government the primary dictators of cannabis policy, and would do little if anything to address its criminal status under federal law.”

As for President Donald Trump, he said of recreational weed legalization: “I think it’s bad, and I feel strongly about that.” So eloquent, isn’t he?...

Marc Lotter, director of strategic communications for Trump’s re-election campaign, further clarified: “I think the president is looking at this from a standpoint of a parent — a parent of a young person — to make sure we keep our kids away from drugs. They need to be kept illegal. That is the federal policy.”

But the federal policy in this country is outdated. The mindset of Americans is vastly different than it was just 50 years ago — even 20 years ago. We need to revamp the drug laws in the United States — along with every other interwoven system built into the American structure — and it starts with cannabis. If federal legalization doesn’t happen, prohibition will continue to stifle the evolution of the American collective. 

We don't have time for that bullshit anymore. Give the people what they want: Access to legal weed without criminal offense. 

Mike McPadden
Mike McPadden is the author of "Heavy Metal Movies" and the upcoming "Last American Virgins." He writes about movies, music, and crime in Chicago. Twitter @mcbeardo
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