White House signals support for changing cannabis laws


White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki recently said that President Biden believes that “our current marijuana laws are not working,” but she did not comment on if Biden supports the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act that recently passed in the House. That bill would legalize cannabis at the federal level and address some of the harms done by the War on Drugs.

Biden has in the past voiced support for decriminalizing cannabis, which many argue is the same as legalizing cannabis when it comes to what can be done at the federal level because Congress cannot set up a legal cannabis market nationwide. However, Biden has been relatively quiet about cannabis issues since he became president, so it’s been somewhat unclear what kind of bill he would be willing to get behind.

Morgan Fox, political director at NORML, told Cannabis News Box that he’s disappointed that Biden won’t get behind a specific legalization bill.

“The president’s unwillingness to endorse specific descheduling legislation is disappointing, but not surprising,” Fox said. “During the campaign, he did not explicitly say he supported legalization to that extent, and so far has done nothing insofar as following up on the things he did say. That being said, it was never in doubt that Congress was going to take the lead on this issue.”

Fox said that while Biden hasn’t gotten behind a specific legalization bill, he doesn’t think Biden would veto a bill that found its way to his desk. He said Democrats need a win right now, and legalizing cannabis is really popular across the country.

“I think he was forced to evolve during the presidential primaries in order to not appear out of touch when compared to the other Democratic candidates, and since then he has been getting good information from the people around him,” Fox said. “However, I see no indications that he has significantly changed his views with regards to federal descheduling and regulation, and he clearly hasn’t changed his mind about the issue overall to the extent that he’s willing to prioritize fulfilling his campaign promises or issue directives to federal agencies.”

It doesn’t currently seem likely that a legalization bill will be able to get the 60 votes it would need in the Senate to pass, but legalization advocates are pushing hard to get something passed before the midterm elections because they believe passing something will become less likely if Republicans take the House or the Senate.