A group of progressive Democrats in the Senate are turning up the heat on the White House to deliver on Joe Biden’s campaign promise to end the federal war on marijuana users. In a letter sent to President Obama this week, Senators Bernie Sanders, Jeff Merkley, and Kirsten Gillibrand urged the administration to take action now that most states have legalized marijuana in some form.
“We commend the administration’s recent pardons and commutations of 78 people, including nine with non-violent cannabis-related offenses,” wrote the lawmakers, led by Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. “However, much more has to be done to address the racist and harmful legacy of cannabis policies on Black and Brown communities.”
The senators point out that the federal government still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, which means it is considered to have no medical value and a high potential for abuse. This classification makes it difficult for researchers to study the drug’s medicinal properties and hampers state efforts to regulate its sale and use.
The Senators are calling on the President to use his executive authority to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana and direct federal prosecutors to stop pursuing cases against individuals who comply with state laws permitting its use. The Senators argue that the current policy is unfair and disproportionately affects communities of color. They also point out that it contradicts Biden’s own stated belief that marijuana should be treated as a public health issue, not a criminal one. The White House has so far declined to comment on the letter, but it is clear that the pressure is mounting on the President to act.
With more and more states legalizing marijuana, it is time for the federal government to catch up. The progressive Democrats in the Senate are right to turn up the heat on the White House to take action on this issue. It is time for the federal government to end its war on marijuana users and allow states to regulate the drug as they see fit.
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