Despite Years of Campaigning Against Cannabis, the Plant May Be the Key to Securing a Biden Win in the Upcoming US Presidential Elections
Irony abounds. A recent US poll found positive impressions of President Joe Biden improve by double-digits if he reschedules cannabis. This will force a change in his attitude to cannabis, which to date has been prohibitive.
26 January 2024 at 07:00:00
This article first appeared in Forbes Magazine on 25 January 2024.
The youth rejoiced when President Biden pushed through hard-fought financial aid in the form an additional $5 billion in student loan forgiveness. This move will offer relief to 793,000 Americans who borrowed money for college.
Now, the younger generation of voters aged 18-25 asks that President Biden keep his other campaign promise of freeing America’s cannabis prisoners and decriminalizing weed. This reality is driven home by the Lake Research Partners poll that was funded by the Coalition for Cannabis Scheduling Reform (CCSR).
Politico first reported that the majority of the youngest generation of voters strongly want President Biden to move forward with rescheduling cannabis. “Voters ages 18-25 register some of the strongest levels of support for rescheduling,” the poll reads, “with 65% favoring rescheduling, including nearly half who feel that way strongly.”
Two-thirds of voters believe the President should accept the recent HHS recommendation to reschedule cannabis to Schedule 3. Among voters 18-25, a whopping 84% believe President Biden should accept the recommendation. This compares to 13% who say Biden should somehow try to block the reschedule. The numbers reflect an 11-point swing overall, including a double-digit +11-point swing with younger voters aged 18-25.
There are so many benefits to the cannabis platform if President Biden makes it a priority. That’s why he ran on it. Cannabis decriminalization is popular and bipartisan. There’s nothing America agrees on more than weed. The Lake Research poll found that 74% of Democrats and 55% of independents support rescheduling cannabis. 70% of citizens believe weed should be legal, a record high according to the latest Gallup poll.
A whopping 80% of Democrats in America want cannabis to be legal.
That reflects the Democratic party majority. That is a lot of people. It would drastically help Democrats in the 2024 election. Young Americans, among Biden’s strongest-performing demographics in 2020, have seen the largest drop in approval ratings among any age group. The President needs their vote.
Another study found that 57% of all adults want people with past convictions to be cleared for nonviolent marijuana charges. While President Biden signaled he would expunge the records of American citizens who have been charged with Federal cannabis possession, it’s helped a relatively small amount of convictions. One analyst found the move freed 0 people who were currently incarcerated. On December 22, 2023, a recent double-down on this stance granted clemency to 11 people.
The majority of cannabis prisoners are locked up at the state level, not federal. In 2024, 19 states still jail people for non-violent cannabis possession misdemeanors.
“Just as no one should be in a federal prison solely due to the use or possession of marijuana, no one should be in a local jail or state prison for that reason, either,” said Biden in the recent statement.
Biden’s messaging is correct, but his actions fall short. This is an urgent matter for the 40,000 people sitting in jail and prison for this plant. American citizens are suffering in private prison systems over a plant that is legal in 24 states. This is a grave injustice. This issue determines their entire life. Action is needed for these citizens who have been hit hardest by some of his earlier policies. Biden can change his mind. He has before.
“Criminal records for marijuana use and possession have imposed needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities,” President Biden said. “Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana. It's time that we right these wrongs.”
America has the largest amount of its own citizens in prison than any country on earth– 2.1 million. They lose on average 2.6 years of their lives. ACLU data found that states waste a cumulative $3 billion enforcing cannabis laws every year. Black Americans are 3.7x more likely to be arrested for cannabis, the ACLU documented in its data report from 2020 called A Tale Of Two Americas. I’m sad to say these numbers have not improved since Biden took office. Federal cannabis arrests have increased by 25% under the Biden admin’s watch.
All of this incarceration happens simultaneously as states collect billions of tax dollars from the blossoming industry. The hypocrisy is more damning each year. States have already collected $10 billion in taxes from legal weed, and $3 billion in 2022 alone. In cash. Legalizing cannabis will help pull the country out of any lingering recession. Economists estimate the legal cannabis industry will create 1 million jobs in America. Without federal decriminalization, the legal cannabis businesses are relegated to operating in cash, putting them at risk and forcing them into the shadows.
Every state that legalizes cannabis benefits greatly from it. California made $1.2 billion in tax money from the legal weed industry in 2021 and $269.3 million in Q3 of 2023. Egregiously high taxes (like in California’s market) are not necessary to see an economic lift: somewhat reasonably taxed markets like Colorado made over $270 million in 2023 and Washington made over $500 million in 2022.
The steps are easy and have been laid out for Biden in detail in a report by the Congressional Research Service. Biden could free all cannabis prisoners with a single signature by utilizing Executive Action. He could clear up the muddy, regulatory, cash-only waters of the state-by-state market by enacting Federal decriminalization or helping advance the SAFER Banking Act. He could single-handedly help reduce the opioid epidemic in the U.S. He could change the lives of his constituents for the better.
Biden could offer an entire generation of passionate, innovative business owners access to the same American Dream he has accessed. By taking more drastic steps towards legalization across the country, the president could begin to repair the damages done by the War on Drugs.
It’s ironic. After all these years of criminalizing it, weed is going to save President Biden.
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