Senators Urge Biden To Change Federal Cannabis Policies

Three American lawmakers have written a letter to Joe Biden, asking him to reverse America’s federal cannabis policies.

On Tuesday, November 9, Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) wrote to Biden, requesting a policy change after more than a century of failed and racist policies.

In the letter, the senators request that Biden use his executive authority to pardon all individuals of non-violent cannabis offenses, regardless of whether they are currently or formerly incarcerated.

A Century of Failed Policy

Referencing cannabis laws implemented at the beginning of the 20th century that targeted Mexican immigrants and Mexican Americans, the letter states that America’s cannabis policies have disproportionately punished black and brown communities for far too long.

The senators write that the crusade against cannabis, buoyed by a campaign interlaced with racism, had morphed into a federal ban by 1937.

The letter also references the War on Drugs that Richard Nixon launched in the 1970s against his advisors’ objections.

The resulting mass incarceration policies have had devastating effects on black and brown communities, states the letter.

“Our country’s cannabis policies must be completely overhauled, but you have the power to act now: you can and should issue a blanket pardon for all non-violent federal cannabis offenses, fulfilling your promises to the American people and transforming the lives of tens of thousands Americans (sic),” states the letter. “As a candidate for President, you argued that ‘we should decriminalize marijuana’ and ‘everyone [with a marijuana record] should be let out of jail, their records expunged, be completely zeroed out.’”

Public Opinion has Shifted

The letter states that current federal cannabis policies are increasingly out of step with the mindset of the American public.

Noting that eighteen states, two territories, and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis, the letter states that nearly seven out of ten Americans believe that cannabis should be legal.

“Twenty-seven states-ranging from New York to North Dakota—plus D.C. have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of cannabis,” states the letter. “Thirty-six states, three territories, and D.C. have allowed for the medical use of cannabis. And a number of tribal governments have legalized cannabis for various purposes.”

According to the letter, the first and simplest step in the process is a blanket pardon.

The senators state that the Constitution grants Biden the authority to pardon broad classes of American citizens to correct widespread injustice like other Presidents have done.

Along with a pardon, the letter says that Biden’s leadership on an accessible expungement process would signal the start of a reversal of decades-old ineffective and discriminatory cannabis policies and allow Americans to return to their communities, find housing, obtain employment, and rebuild their lives without the burdens of an unjustly imposed criminal record.

“We urge you to act swiftly,” write the senators, “On behalf of the countless Americans punished by the country’s senseless cannabis laws.”