Results are in. The 2020 election for President of the United States is over. While reclaiming the country from Trump was, for many, a pivotal concern, other matters are at stake too. These include addressing the pandemic, passing some type of relief bill for the outbreak, protecting minority and abortion rights, and among other urgent issues too, yes, the legal status of cannabis Reform.
An administration with a Democratic dispensation would deschedule cannabis at the federal level, decriminalizing it completely. The Republican platform, on the other hand, is calling for the existing status quo, which means more of the same, which means more arrests and using the police to hunt folks for petty possession violations. Certainly, it would mean no legal marijuana delivery anywhere.
The Promises of Joe Biden
Throughout the primary race, of all the Democratic candidates, Biden alone would not consider even legalizing cannabis. Since becoming nominee, the entire party fast adopted his stance on the issue. However, despite his notoriety for conservativeness, Biden did make one important promise. He said, “Nobody should be in jail simply for smoking or possessing marijuana.” This is enormous. Significant.
Ex-President Donald Trump, during the last presidential debate, partially accused Joe Biden of causing the mass incarceration problem in America, using his record as Senator for reference. Despite Trump’s own history of mistruths, this one is actually true. Biden wrote the 1994 Crime Bill, or the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which remains central to the “War on Drugs” even today.
This Crime Bill is directly responsible for the mass incarceration of countless innocents for simply possessing some recreational drugs. However, 25 years later see Biden expressing great remorse for it. “It was a mistake,” he said, in front of millions. “We passed 100 percent. All 100 senators voted for it. It was a mistake. I have been trying to change it since then, particularly the portion on cocaine.”
Then and Now
Much changed these last few decades. Biden now feels very differently. More important, he is providing workable solutions to fix the problems it caused, saying, “I have been arguing that, in fact, we should not send anyone to jail for a pure drug offense. They should be going into treatment. It was a mistake to pass those laws relating to drugs.”
Besides identifying the error of past ways, the only person to admit such on the debate stage, Biden made clear his stance: “There should be no minimum mandatory sentences in the law. I am offering $20 billion to states to change their state laws to eliminate minimum mandatories and set up drug courts. No one should be going to jail because they have a drug problem. They should be going to rehabilitation, not jail. We should fundamentally change the system, and that is what I am going to do.”
The Kamala Harris Influence
Long and complicated is the history that Democratic vice president Kamala Harris has with marijuana. As the former Attorney General of California and the District Attorney of San Francisco, Harris presided over thousands of convictions for petty weed offenses. Her own campaign for the presidency failed, in part, to her upholding several unjust laws that were harming communities.
However, like Joe Biden, Harris has enjoyed a complete turnaround on her previous stance. On the subject of criminal justice, and of cannabis particularly, Harris came out during the primary as supportive of full legalization. “Times have changed,” she famously said. “Marijuana should not be a crime.” In a statement from 2018, Harris spoke extensively on the issue:
“Right now, in this country, people are being arrested, being prosecuted, and end up spending time in jail or prison, all because of their use of a drug that otherwise should be considered legal,” Harris explained. “Making marijuana legal at the federal level is the smart thing to do. It is the right thing to do. I know this as a former prosecutor and I know it as a senator.”
What is more, Harris blatantly denies being opposed to legalization. Hailing from Jamaica, she jokes about it regularly, implying such would be impossible with her roots. Further, Harris admits to smoking cannabis personally while listening to Snoop Dogg. The offer Harris brings to the table is more than just talk of promises and plans. She brings decisive action. Finally.
Then and Now
Harris has now been advocating legalization for some time. She supported reform by co-sponsoring the Marijuana Justice Act with Senator Cory Booker, and the SAFE Banking Act with Senator Elizabeth Warren, which allows cannabusinesses access to banking and other financial services. Harris took a more leading and decisive role too.
As senator, Harris became chief sponsor of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, or MORE, which was the first cannabis reform bill in history approved by congressional vote. It currently sits before the House waiting a floor vote these coming months. Its success seems imminent now, as Democrats rightfully reclaim seats previously held by Republicans.
Her approach to pot reform is increasingly militant. When states excluded legal cannabusinesses from COVID-19 relief, Harris was first to defend them: “Marijuana small businesses employ more than 240,000 workers and should be allowed access to coronavirus relief funds too,” she said. “My colleagues and I are pushing to ensure they are not left out of Congress’s next relief package.”
Harris applauded Illinois when it legalized cannabis and expunged all records of those arrested for possession, which amounted to thousands. “Expunging non-violent marijuana-related offenses is the right thing to do,” she reiterated at the time. “Now, let us legalize marijuana at the federal level.” Her dedication to reform is evident. Undeniable.
Future of Cannabis
Where Joe Biden might hesitate at legalizing pot, he seems set to decriminalize it. What is more, Harris already said she would “bring her progressive policies into a Biden administration,” including her support for weed delivery and legalization. She explains her and Biden have a deal, “I will always share with him my lived experience as it relates to any issue we confront. I promised my perspective and honesty.”