With the Democrats in full control of Congress and the White House, the odds for real cannabis reform, such as full federal legalization, have never been higher. For years, cannabis has delivered a strong track record of creating jobs, tax revenue, and restorative justice in communities disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs. It’s also been hugely popular with the American people, where more than 91% of adults are in favor of legalizing cannabis for either medical or adult recreational use.
And yet, despite all this, there has hardly been any momentum at the federal level to legalize cannabis – until now, that is.
President Joe Biden has openly stated that he supports decriminalization and the legalization of medical cannabis.
He reaffirmed the former at a town hall earlier this year where he stated that “no one should go to jail for the use of a drug,” especially as it relates to addressing racial disparities in the enforcement of drugs. And he’s not the only one.
Legislators promote cannabis reform
In the lower chamber of Congress, U.S. House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler recently reintroduced a social justice-focused cannabis legalization bill, known as the MORE Act.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has voiced his support for major cannabis reform, including decriminalizing possession, expunging criminal records, and reinvesting in the communities hardest hit by the failed War on Drugs.
He has been working closely withDemocrat Sens. Cory Booker and Ron Wyden to introduce a more comprehensive cannabis reform bill that would end cannabis prohibition and promote social justice, similar to the MORE Act.
“I’m a big fighter for racial justice, and the marijuana laws have been one of the biggest examples of racial injustice, and so to change them makes sense,”said Schumer.“And that fits in with all of the movement now to bring equality in the policing, in economics and in everything else. Our bill is, in a certain sense, at the nexus of racial justice, individual freedom, and states’ rights.”
When you look at the numbers and the people affected by this failed War on Drugs, it’s hard not to argue why cannabis should be legalized.
According to the Last Prisoner Project, anon-profit organization dedicated to cannabis criminal justice reform:
- 15.7 million people were arrested for cannabis offenses in the last decade.
- $47 billion is being spent annually on the War on Drugs.
- $10.4 billion were generated in legal cannabis sales in 2018 in the U.S.
New Jersey police, for example, have filed more than 6,000 charges for minor cannabis possession in the three months since nearly 3 million voters approved the legalization of cannabis on November 3, 2020. That’s right – after voters have legalized it and despite the fact that lawmakers and Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, have been working hard to create and implement a framework for a legal industry.
The state spends, on average, $143 million annually to enforce cannabis prohibition, and it’s not only a poor use of resources, but it also exacerbates the negative impacts this “war” has already caused.
Not only are we wrongly imprisoning tens of thousands of people a year – who are convicted of an activity that is no longer a crime – but we are also spending billions of dollars trying to enforce an antiquated movement that has disproportionately affected communities of color, and no longer represents the views of the overwhelming majority of American people.
Justice for victims of War on Drugs
I have been working in the legal cannabis industry for more than a decade and my company, KushCo Holdings, stands to benefit from legalization. However, despite whatever financial benefit that may exist, our greatest goal is justice for those impacted by this failed War on Drugs, which has mostly disenfranchised people of color.
For pure racial and social justice alone, cannabis should be federally legalized – and soon. Republicans had a crucial chance to make things right under the Trump administration, but chose not to promote justice, despite Republican congressmen David Joyce and Don Young introducing a bill that would legalize cannabis federally in a manner similar to alcohol. While the effort was seen by some cannabis policy experts as an encouraging step forward, it woefully lacks any meaningful social justice provision.
This leaves President Biden and the new Democrat-controlled Congress to clean up decades worth of bad policy and serious injustice.
But legalizing cannabis isn’t all about ending injustice.
Given the devastating economic damage COVID-19 has caused – and is continuing to cause – state and federal budgets have been decimated, unemployment remains high, and our economy is in need of a massive catalyst to accelerate the road to recovery. Even obstinate opponents of cannabis cannot deny the industry’s profoundly positive impact on the U.S. economy, having employed 321,000 Americans in 2021, and generating more than $3 billion in tax revenue in 2020 alone.
States and localities are clearlybenefiting on all social and economic fronts, and it’s time we move forward with cannabis.
Overall, there has never been a more critical time to legalize cannabis federally, as we recover from a damaging pandemic, while proactively addressing some of the social unrest that has afflicted our nation in recent months. The numbers speak for themselves, but more importantly, it’s just the right thing to do. Fortunately, more politicians are finally coming around to realizing and accepting what virtually the entire American public has known for years now: Legalizing cannabis can positively support our economy, communities, and people.