White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki fielded many cannabis-related questions this week while the nation — including top congressional lawmakers — celebrated the April 20 cannabis holiday on Tuesday.
From the Senate Majority Leader.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) April 20, 2021
While a staggering majority of Americans now support the descheduling and federal legalization of cannabis, and nearly half the country’s population is living in states with legal cannabis access, Psaki’s comments revealed that the White House appears obstinate in its wary approach to federal reforms.
“The president supports leaving decisions regarding legalization for recreational use up to the states, rescheduling cannabis as a Schedule II drug so researchers can study its positive and negative impacts and, at the federal level, he supports decriminalizing marijuana use and automatically expunging any prior criminal records. He also supports legalizing medicinal marijuana….” — White House Press Sec. Psaki, to reporters on Tuesday
When asked specifically whether Biden would sign a federal legalization bill if it were to reach his desk, Psaki would not answer directly and replied, “I just have outlined what his position is, which isn’t the same as what the House and Senate have proposed, but they have not yet passed a bill.”
Psaki also called the legalization/expungement query a “legal question” and said she defers to the Department of Justice.
Revisiting the issue on Wednesday, New York Post reporter Steven Nelson noted to Psaki that rescheduling to Schedule II would not honor President Biden’s Democratic Primary promise to expunge convictions and release prisoners who are currently locked up — some with life sentences — on cannabis charges.
“That’s right,” she said, “but it addresses things moving forward, though, which is important and important to many advocates.” However, the cannabis industry and countless cannabis advocates have suggested for years that a Schedule II rescheduling would be improper because this would actually push control over cannabis manufacturing and product development to the pharmaceutical sector, which would only stand to exacerbate the injustices of cannabis prohibition.
In a nation that is grappling with the ongoing issues of racial justice and the over-policing of Black and Brown communities spurred largely by the “war on drugs,” and where there are still thousands of people serving harsh prison sentences for nonviolent cannabis-related convictions, President Biden’s apparent steadfast commitment to a “modest” approach to cannabis reform is painfully out-of-touch for an administration that presents itself as progressive.
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