WeedWeek Endorses Joe Biden

By WeedWeek
Oct 4, 2020
(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

For the good of the nation and the cannabis community, WeedWeek endorses Joe Biden for President of the United States.  

The former vice president wasn’t the Democrat cannabis wanted. He’s one of relatively few prominent figures in the party who hasn’t endorsed legalization. However, he supports policies that would benefit the industry, help to mitigate the injustices of the war on drugs and accelerate MED research. These goals have largely gone ignored under the Trump administration.

Biden’s Complicated History

Biden supports decriminalizing marijuana and automatically expunging records for low level cannabis offenses. He would allow state laws to govern policy — which suggests an openness to banking reform and perhaps amending industry-hated tax rule 280E. 

Like President Trump, Biden was a young man in the 1960s. Both of them seem to have given the counterculture a wide berth. Neither is known to have ever smoked pot, and it seems both, like many of their generation, still carry a heavy stigma against it. With cannabis reform broadly popular among Democrats and somewhat less so among Republicans, it’s hard to think of another issue where both candidates are so obviously leaving votes on the table. 

Biden’s aides maintain that he continues to go against his party and oppose legalization largely due to public health concerns. This suggests he hasn’t studied the issue deeply. With the encouragement of his party, notably his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) there is a strong possibility that he will “evolve,” just as he did with same sex marriage, which he endorsed before his boss President Obama did.

We suspect fears that a Biden proposal to re-schedule cannabis would hand the industry over to Big Pharma are overblown.   

Biden’s history of support for harsh criminal penalties for drug offenders can’t be ignored. For much of his career in the Senate, he was, as Leafly put it, “a driving force behind America’s disastrous approach to drug policy.” Millions of people have suffered unduly harsh penalties on account of policies Biden actively advanced. He has apologized, acknowledging that his contribution to harsh criminal penalties “trapped an entire generation,” largely people of color. 

Some voters are not willing to accept Biden’s (mediocre) apology or forgive him, and that’s their right. But elections are mostly about the future. Even though Biden may feel like a compromise for many cannabis voters, the two candidates present as steeply divergent a picture on cannabis, as they do on so many other issues.    

Trump’s Record

President Donald Trump’s reticence is perhaps more mysterious than Biden’s. Trump has at times supported legalizing drugs and during the 2016 campaign, he and Hillary Clinton were both seen as relatively 420-friendly.

Since the earliest days of his administration, that proved to be inaccurate. When Trump took office the conflict between state and federal cannabis law was untenable. He has done almost nothing as the situation grew worse. 

It’s not clear whether Trump’s inaction has been motivated by hostility or obliviousness. For a president obsessed with the economy, indifference to the country’s fastest growing industry — and a rare jobs engine — leaves many questions unanswered.

While Oklahoma and other red states are now home to booming MED markets, the most “transactional” of politicians has done nothing to support them. Meanwhile powerful figures in Trump’s Washington, perhaps aware that actively pushing back against cannabis reform would be political suicide, have instead done what they can at the margins to undermine the industry. 

This has been true since the beginning of his administration when Trump appointed pot-hating Senator Jeff Sessions to be attorney general. Trump’s next attorney general Bill Barr apparently launched anti-trust probes against cannabis companies, despite it being the most fractured industry in the country. A new ruling from the DEA has also alarmed the CBD and hemp industries despite their federal legality. Congressional Republicans repeatedly parrot the inane talking point that Democrats’ proposed pandemic relief bill mentions the word cannabis more than the word jobs.

On this issue, Trump may be captive to establishment Republicans and their longtime biases. A recent episode raises a different possibility. The president recently made the unsubstantiated, though plausible, claim that marijuana ballot initiatives hurt Republicans at the polls. What this suggests is a largely incorrect belief, that Republicans aren’t cannabis people. 

Ardent Trump supporters like Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fl.) champion cannabis reform. But many of those who have Trump’s ear, like Fox News personalities Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson are sneeringly dismissive. In Trump’s often Us vs. Them worldview, there’s reason to believe he sees cannabis as a Them thing. 

Many observers believe Trump would sign any pot reforms that come across his desk. But if he believes cannabis is something only Democrats favor, that could mean four more years during which the industry can expect minimal help from Washington.

We believe Joe Biden is much more likely than Trump to implement the reforms the industry needs. While the former vice president probably won’t show much love for the cannabis world, he’s also more likely to govern in greater accordance with the benevolent values many cannabis lovers ascribe to the plant.

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