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Biden Punts on Pot

Debra Saunders on

There is one issue where President Joe Biden has not moved further left and in lockstep with other liberal leaders: marijuana. The oldest man to take the oath of office -- he's now 78 -- just can't bring himself to support legalization.

On the 2020 campaign trail, Biden claimed he wanted to decriminalize it and leave legal questions for states to decide.

But does Biden even want to do that?

As Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, Biden was the driving force behind the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 that, among other things, meted out draconian federal sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.

Now that he is in the Oval Office, nothing is happening on the modest federal decriminalization front.

"He at least pledged to decriminalize marijuana possession, expunge (criminal) records, legalize medical cannabis," reschedule marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act and "let the states do what they want," Tom Angell of Marijuana Moment told me. "However, since coming into office, so far the only official acts his administration has taken on marijuana were to fire White House employees for having used it" -- after Team Biden said past marijuana use would not be a disqualifier -- and include in his budget language to block the District of Columbia from legalizing and regulating the sale of weed.

 

On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and fellow Democratic Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Ron Wyden of Oregon stepped into the breach. They released a "discussion draft" of their Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act that would remove marijuana from the federal list of controlled substances and allow states to set their own laws.

States effectively have forced this moment, with 18 states having legalized recreational use of pot and 36 states having legalized medical use.

The lack of clarity does not encourage compliance. It gives pro-pot people grounds to flout the law and law-and-order types cover to throw offenders behind bars.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas recently observed that "one can certainly understand why an ordinary person might think that the Federal Government has retreated from its once-absolute ban on marijuana" and why business owners may think that it's legal for them to sell marijuana in states like Colorado, where it is legal under state law.

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