Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic candidate for president of the United States, on Monday announced a “Plan for Black America,” which includes cannabis decriminalization, expungement of convictions related to cannabis use, and ending “all incarceration for drug use alone,” opting instead for drug courts and treatment.
The criminal justice reform plan would also end cash bail and implement pretrial system reforms. The plan suggests that the Biden Administration would replace cash bail and the pretrial scheme with a “system that is fair and does not inject further discrimination or bias into the process.”
Additionally, the plan calls to end the federal crack and powder cocaine sentencing disparities and work to eliminate both mandatory minimum sentencing and the federal death penalty. In an effort to get rid of mandatory minimums, Biden would create a $20 billion grant program to support criminal justice reform at the state and local level. Those funds could be used by cities and states “on measures proved to reduce crime and incarceration” but only by states that eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent crimes.
The plan also calls for an independent task for on prosecutorial discretion – placed outside of the Department of Justice – that “would make recommendations for tackling discrimination and other problems in our justice system that results from arrest and charging decisions.”
The reforms also seek to end the use of private prisons – a policy championed by the Obama Administration that was rescinded by the Trump Administration in 2017.
During a campaign stop in Las Vegas, Nevada last year, Biden said he did not support cannabis legalization due to lack of evidence “whether or not it is a gateway drug” but did say he supported federal cannabis decriminalization and medical cannabis legalization. In February, Biden walked back the “gateway drug” comments and doubled down on his support for federal cannabis reforms. In the comments, recorded by the Marijuana Policy Project’s Don Murphy during a Biden campaign stop in New Hampshire, the former senator conceded that, in the U.S., cannabis is “at the point where it has to be, basically, legalized” but that he was “not prepared to do it” while “serious medical people” still have concerns over its effects.
Biden is the likely Democratic nominee after all of the other candidates either dropped out of the race or suspended their campaigns. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D) still appears on some state nomination ballots despite suspending his campaign in April.