The Stakes Have Never Been Higher for President Biden to Legalize Cannabis

The presidential election of 2024 is closer than you think.  With a field of Republicans already vying for the nomination, it is a good opportunity to take stock of where we are with the federal cannabis question.  Case in point: There’s a groundswell of support for legalization, which has been embraced by nearly every demographic, whether age, race, sexual orientation, gender or party affiliation. I’m not sure future administrations want to die on the hill of prohibition.  

Federal cannabis prohibition is in direct contradiction to the overwhelming will of the American electorate.  Working towards a safe, secure, and well-regulated legal marketplace is necessary.  Continued cannabis prohibition is not tenable.

The Biden administration has allowed individuals eligible for his pardon of all prior federal offenses of simple cannabis possession to apply for a “certificate of proof” showing that they have been officially forgiven for their crime.  “No one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana,” Biden said last year when he announced the pardon. “It’s legal in many states, and criminal records for marijuana possession have led to needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities. While white and Black and brown people use marijuana at similar rates, Black and brown people are arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at disproportionate rates.”

Never before has a sitting president explicitly acknowledged the failures of America’s experiment with cannabis prohibition – a policy that some two-thirds of Americans now say ought to be repealed and that nearly half of all U.S. states have done away with.  But Biden didn’t go far enough.  

Biden supports marijuana reforms such as decriminalizing possession, expunging past criminal records, allowing medical cannabis, and letting states set their own laws without federal interference.  But as Bill Maher recently said, Biden missed the boat to legalize cannabis. Maher recently asked on his eponymous show, Real Time with Bill Maher, “Why hasn’t President Biden been more aggressive about legalizing marijuana?”  

Federal legalization continues to be the Holy Grail for cannabis consumers and companies, especially since it remains a Schedule I controlled substance.  The majority of states have made cannabis legal in either medicinal or recreational form. But cannabis legalization has never been a priority for Biden so we may not see legalization at the federal level in the near future.  

A new national poll commissioned by the Coalition for Cannabis Policy, Education, and Regulation (CPEAR) shows that more than two-thirds of Republican voters support efforts to reform cannabis policy at the federal level.  The poll showed 68% of voters likely to cast a ballot in a 2024 Republican presidential primary or caucus support ending the federal prohibition of cannabis.

The U.S. needs a Commander-in-Cannabis.  Federal cannabis legalization would protect states’ rights, allow more research into the health benefits of cannabis, provide veterans access to medical marijuana, put billions of dollars in state and federal coffers, empower law enforcement to focus on more serious crimes, and set clear safety and label standards.  Need I say more? Remember, a well-regulated, legal substance is better than a poorly-regulated, illegal one.