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Is Joe Biden Finally Coming On Board With Cannabis?

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Remote campaign stumps, and a flagging economy aside, one of the key issues for the 2020 presidential campaign in the United States will absolutely include cannabis reform.

So far, the Democratic Party itself, which dates back to the back door squabbling seen since 2014, has been less than progressive on the topic of cannabis. Bernie Sanders put the issue squarely in the national spotlight, but this issue alone was not enough to get him to the top of the Democratic nominee ticket.

However, in another sign that Biden is taking policies straight from the Bernie playbook, in early May, the former VP and this year’s Democratic presidential contender, appears to be incorporating certain aspects of normalization into his policies, should he become president.

Biden’s platform for racial justice released plans for modest drug reform proposals, focusing rather on decriminalization for the use of cannabis rather than full legalization. He also proposed expunging all prior cannabis use convictions which his campaign released earlier this month.

While the proposal also talks about normalizing all drug sentencing (i.e. eliminating harsher sentencing for crack rather than cocaine) as well as changing broader criminal justice policies such as mandatory minimum sentencing and diverting people with minor drug convictions to treatment rather than prison, many advocates are still hoping that he will up the ante on cannabis a bit more. If not before the election, then certainly after it.

Before he occupied the White House, Biden’s record was far from progressive on drugs, and during his time in the Senate, he both authored and supported punitive drug laws that contributed in no small part to mass incarceration, including many in the African American community. The Obama White House, in which Biden served as a Vice President, also moved slowly on the cannabis issue, although it was during the Obama Presidency that the legal state movement finally took off. Under Trump, those procedural protections for the states, known broadly as the Cole Memo, were unraveled although new states have come online during his presidency, on both the medical and recreational front.

While it is clear that Biden is shifting his position, in part due to Trump’s intransigence on federal reform and also to try to attract Sanders’ supporters, who have so far been lukewarm about the Democratic contender, it will clearly not be enough.

The cannabis industry has continued to power through the Covid Pandemic, although clearly it has also been affected by shutdowns and restrictions in every state. But five and a half years after the start of the Colorado and Washington State recreational markets, and numerous states following suit, it will inevitably be a source of jobs in a country now in the midst of the worst economic crisis in ninety years. Federal reform is necessary if only to normalize a now wide-spread industry that generates billions of dollars and creates thousands of American jobs.

Time will tell how convincing the now large and established cannabis industry will be over the summer and into the fall election in pushing Biden to take a stand Americans want and have been advocating for, for decades. That said, legalization might well be the issue that helps Biden clearly not only distinguish himself from Trump in a world where healthcare concerns are increasingly a priority for Americans, and indeed, where cannabis itself might help prevent future infections, if not help those inoculated with a future vaccine better tolerate their medicine.

For the best global updates on the state of the cannabis industry, be sure to attend an International Cannabis Business Conference event as the world starts normalizing later this year.

Joe Biden