On June 19th, 2021, the United States celebrated the 156th anniversary of Juneteenth, signifying the day that many African Americans were emancipated and given freedom from slavery. In honor of this important day, President Joe Biden made a number of declarations, one of which is the promotion of pardoning those convicted of marijuana-related crimes and a review of the scheduling of cannabis. In this article, we will explore what this proclamation means and the implications for the future of cannabis legislation in the US.
1. Biden’s Juneteenth Proclamation: Pardons, Marijuana Review
As President Joe Biden’s Juneteenth Proclamation was just announced, it included call for action within criminal justice reform. From
commutations to marijuana review, here’s what the president said:
- Massive Release of Prisoners: Biden announced he is working with the Department of Justice to review incarcerated populations
for possible clemency. This process includes both commutations and pardons.
- Marijuana Reclassification: Biden instructed the DOJ to review the classification of all drugs, with special attention to cannabis. A
change of this drug’s Schedule 1 status would open the doors to more medical research.
The president’s Juneteenth Proclamation also referred to the federal government’s ownership of responsibility following decades of oppression
and injustice experienced by African American communities. He also highlighted the urgent need to invest in educational and economic equity
in order to reach a fair and just society.
2. A Look at Biden’s Radical New Marijuana Stance
When it comes to marijuana policy, Joe Biden hasn’t been the most progressive of candidates… until now. He’s recently spoken about changing the country’s approach to marijuana in a positive way. Here’s what that might mean for the nation.
1. Rescinding Strict Drug Laws
At the heart of Biden’s new marijuana stance is a desire to undo the extensive criminalization of the drug at the state and federal levels. This could include finally reducing punishments for possession of small amounts of cannabis from felony to misdemeanor charges, as well as reducing penalties for larger amounts. He’s also mentioned replacing the concept of incarceration for minor crimes with rehabilitation and treatment.
2. Promoting Legalization
Biden’s policy, while applauding individual states’ decision to legalize marijuana on their own terms, takes it a step further by proposing federally decriminalizing the drug and removing it from the list of controlled substances. This would effectively make marijuana legal everywhere, allowing it to be taxed and regulated like alcohol or tobacco.
Furthermore, Biden has made a commitment to support the individuals disproportionately affected by the criminalization of marijuana, including people of color, low-income people, and those with criminal records. In an effort to create a more equitable system, he is pushing for expungement of marijuana convictions and even advocating for states to consider expungement of prior convictions.
3. Paving The Road To Marijuana Legalization?
As the legalization of marijuana gains popularity, the road to making it available is a rather complex one. There are a few strategies that help pave the road towards marijuana legalization and implementation:
- Acknowledging the Benefits – An important part of the path to legalization is to prove the potential benefit to society. This can be done through studying the medicinal, recreational, and industrial uses, as well as potential tax revenue associated with it.
- Advocacy – Since the legal status of marijuana varies depending on jurisdiction, the region must approve legal changes. This is done with the help of activists and advocacy groups that create change through grass-roots campaigns.
- Legalization Studies – Evaluating the risks and benefits to establish the best model for each region. This can include mechanisms such as regulation, taxation, or agriculture production.
All areas that wish to legalize marijuana must first assess the current landscape and create an educated approach that will serve their population. Furthermore, organizations and individuals can help advocate for legalizing marijuana by joining forces. Their collective knowledge and understanding can be shared, and through thoughtful efforts they can help shape public perception.
4. Has Biden Really Changed the Status Quo for Cannabis?
It’s certainly no secret that former United States President Joe Biden campaigned on the promise of reforming cannabis laws and policies. But since he took office in January 2021, just how much progress has he actually made on cannabis reform?
The short answer is: a fair bit. For starters, Biden has lifted the military’s ban on cannabis use for service personnel. Though the policy change falls short of full legalization for the armed forces, it’s a step in the right direction.
- Biden has made a concerted effort to reduce the racial disparities that the war on drugs has caused. He has proposed the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement Act (MORE Act) which would federally decriminalize cannabis and fund local Minority Business Enterprises related to the new cannabis industry.
- The administration has opened up bank access for cannabis businesses and relaxed regulations. They have removed hemp as a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act, making it easier for businesses to sell hemp-derived products.
- The president is encouraging states to legalize recreational marijuana and end disparate criminal punishments for possession of the substance. He has also called for the federal government to decriminalize cannabis and erase prior convictions for usage.
Though Biden has yet to achieve full legalization of cannabis or overturn existing laws, he has certainly taken the bold steps necessary to begin making real change in the cannabis industry. It’s exciting to see where the US cannabis market goes in the Biden era.
As the country celebrates Juneteenth, the Biden administration has boldly stated their opinions on the matter of marijuana and fairness. By promoting pardons, and pushing for review of the scheduling of marijuana, they are striving to make lasting progress in the criminal justice system. These are undoubtedly steps in the right direction, and are to be commended.