Marijuana prohibition still rules official Washington
The Biden administration is happy to talk about expanding the federal government’s role in everyday life. It’s far less eager to talk about the president’s dogged determination to keep fighting the America’s oldest “endless war,” the war on drugs.
He’s doing so through studied indifference to growing state-level action that’s effectively undermining federal policy. Biden is doing almost nothing federally aside from:
…modest reforms such as tweaking marijuana’s classification under the Controlled Substances Act and decriminalizing low-level marijuana possession, which represents a tiny share of federal drug cases.
Reformers hoped that Vice President Kamala Harris, who as a senator supported repealing the federal ban on marijuana, might nudge Biden to be more ambitious. But if anything, the influence seems to be flowing in the opposite direction.
As Biden’s running mate, Harris said “we will decriminalize the use of marijuana and automatically expunge all marijuana use convictions.” In March, Bloomberg, citing an unnamed Harris aide, reported that “Harris’s positions are now the same as Biden’s.”
Not that congressional Democrats are doing themselves much good, either. They may be slightly more in tune with what the states are doing than the old drug warrior in the Oval Office. But their path to legalization seems rudderless, and Republicans who may support the idea, if only to rationalize federal and state laws, might not buy into it.
For now, the hopes of ending prohibition remain in the states because in DC, the pols seem unable to do the right thing. But could that change if corporate America gets behind the issue? Consider this development, from tech giant Amazon:
…we’re adjusting our drug testing policy. In the past, like many employers, we’ve disqualified people from working at Amazon if they tested positive for marijuana use. However, given where state laws are moving across the U.S., we’ve changed course. We will no longer include marijuana in our comprehensive drug screening program for any positions not regulated by the Department of Transportation, and will instead treat it the same as alcohol use. We will continue to do impairment checks on the job and will test for all drugs and alcohol after any incident.
And because we know that this issue is bigger than Amazon, our public policy team will be actively supporting The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2021 (MORE Act)—federal legislation that would legalize marijuana at the federal level, expunge criminal records, and invest in impacted communities. We hope that other employers will join us, and that policymakers will act swiftly to pass this law.
Very interesting. If Amazon can see that the states are leading the way on ending prohibition, perhaps other companies, big and small, will too. That may change a few GOP minds on the issue. It may even soften Joe Biden’s career-long effort to prop-up prohibition no matter what.