Joe Biden wants to decriminalize cannabis for “Black America”

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

A freshly-prepared plan introduced by former Vice President Joe Biden is set to “decriminalize the use of cannabis and automatically expunge all prior cannabis use convictions.” Biden’s initiative is part of his “Plan For Black America” — primarily communities of color that have been disproportionately impacted by the failed war on drugs.

In 2010, the former Vice President had previously told ABC News that he believed cannabis was a “gateway drug.” Now, the presumptive 2020 Democratic presidential nominee wants to take things in a different direction and amend a broader set of criminal justice policies. 

“Today, too many people are incarcerated in the United States and too many of them are African American,” reads an excerpt from Biden’s plan. “To build safe and healthy communities, we need to rethink who we’re sending to prison, how we treat those in prison, and how we help them get the health care, education, jobs, and housing they need to successfully rejoin society after they serve their time. As President, Biden will strengthen America’s commitment to justice and reform our criminal justice system.”

What does Joe Biden’s “Plan For Black America” entail?

“Today, I’m releasing a new plan to achieve equity for the African American community and take us one step closer to making America what it ought to be,” Biden Tweeted on May 4. One of the primary reasons why Joe Biden is intent on his “Plan for Black America” unfolding across the nation is to eradicate disparities between crack and cocaine sentencing. 

Moreover, he hopes to rescind mandatory minimums and completely put an end to the death penalty that saw 1,283 people die via lethal injection in the U.S. as of April 2017. In 2018, 25 male death row inmates were executed; 23 of whom died by lethal injection and two by electrocution.

Furthermore, Biden is optimistic that he can change the way drug convictions are dealt with by freeing up prison time and space with alternative treatment options. Although the politician seems hopeful about his cannabis decriminalization bill for underprivileged communities of color, not everybody considers this a good strategy for mending the damage caused by cannabis prohibition.

Considering the long violent history of the United States war on communities of color, this plan is a half measure at best,” president of the Minority Cannabis Business Association, Jason Ortiz, said during an interview with told Marijuana Moment. “True equity for our communities would include an admission that our federal government committed a massive crime through the war on drugs, and a plan to undue that damage and make our communities whole.”

Joe Biden’s “Plan For Black America” doesn’t address social equity properly, say advocates

Cannabis advocates constitute 91 percent of U.S. adults; based on statistics from Pew Research. Although advocates typically are in favor of pro-pot initiatives – and particularly those that target disproportionately impacted communities – Joe Biden’s “Plan For Black America” didn’t necessarily get the support most people would have anticipated. Albeit a solid effort to resolve racial equity issues, the proposal received some mixed opinions from cannabis reform groups.

In order to truly address inequality among black and white communities, advocates say that Biden’s “Plan For Black America” doesn’t delve deep enough into the root cause of the problem. An important facet of his proposal is absent, says Ortiz — adult-use cannabis legalization. His opinion is shared by many advocates, who are concerned about the lack of language regarding recreational cannabis legalization. Lobbyists are adamant that the proposal will fail to accomplish its goals if a legalization measure is not included; this, they say, is crucial for guaranteeing restorative justice and equity among communities of color.

Biden’s “Plan For Black America”, Ortiz claims, is weak due to the fact that it fails to acknowledge the release of all cannabis prisoners. This is essential to provide true equity among a legal cannabis marketplace predominantly owned and operated by people of color. Without this, major community investment opportunities will be inadequate, says the Minority Cannabis Business Association president.

“I’m not convinced Biden is there yet but we must all continue to push him for the sake of our communities,” admitted Ortiz, who also touched upon the fact that obligatory substance misuse treatment is not the answer, as opposed to the existing laws that divert individuals to prison. Biden’s new proposal outlines that substance misuse instances in “Black America” would be dealt with by sending people with minor drug convictions to treatment centers. 

Prior to the announcement of Biden’s “Plan For Black America”, former presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) vowed to legalize the plant in all 50 states during his first day in-office. Unfortunately, those hopes have dwindled, what with Sen. Bernie Sanders announcing his departure from the presidential campaign on Wednesday, April 8. Then again, there could be a sudden turn of events in the foreseeable future, since Biden and Sanders made a joint declaration that they could be establishing a criminal justice working group focused on cannabis policy changes.

Although the newly-introduced racial justice plan is lacking fresh drug policy proposals, it accentuates previous measures that are relevant to communities targeted by the war on drugs. Notwithstanding, the proposal indicates progress. 

“Biden’s plan calls for the decriminalization of cannabis and the end of all incarceration for drug abuse,” added Ortiz, who believes that Biden ought to implement his proposed policies with instant effect. “While that flies in stark contrast to the vice president’s record, it is a promising sign that more modern approaches to criminal justice are being discussed and taken seriously by his campaign.”

You can read further details about Biden’s “Plan For Black America” by clicking here.