Marijuana ‘Not As Dangerous’ As Previously Thought, Biden Campaign Says As It Promotes Pardons And Rescheduling In New Ads | Turn 420
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Marijuana ‘Not As Dangerous’ As Previously Thought, Biden Campaign Says As It Promotes Pardons And Rescheduling In New Ads



The Biden campaign is stepping up its push to draw a contrast between the president’s marijuana policies at those of former President Donald Trump, stressing that cannabis is “not as dangerous as we once believed” on a new campaign page and buying ads promoting his clemency actions.

As the November election approaches, President Joe Biden has increasingly leaned in to the popularity of his mass marijuana pardons and scheduling review that led the Justice Department to recommend moving cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

A new Biden campaign webpage also highlights those steps, while criticizing Trump and arguing that the former president “made the failed approach [to marijuana] worse.”

“Joe Biden has been clear for a long time that our nation’s marijuana laws are outdated and are failing communities, particularly communities of color,” it says. “When he ran in 2020, Biden promised to fight to ensure that no one is in jail for marijuana possession alone. And since taking office, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have led the most significant federal reform to our nation’s approach to marijuana in history.”

“Donald Trump opposes marijuana reform and, as president, made the failed approach worse,” it says, adding that the Trump administration “threatened federal prosecutions for marijuana in states where cannabis use is legal.”

That appears to be a reference to then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s decision to withdraw Obama-era guidance to federal prosecutors that formalized a policy of non-intervention in state cannabis programs. The Biden campaign has repeatedly pointed to that action as an example of the marijuana policy disconnect between the two administrations.

It should be noted, however, that while rescheduling marijuana was among Biden’s 2020 campaign promises, advocates remain frustrated that he’s yet to federally decriminalize cannabis as he also pledged to do.

And while the campaign is criticizing the rescission of the federal marijuana guidance, the Justice Department under Biden has yet to reissue any updated guidance—despite Attorney General Merrick Garland saying in June 2022 that DOJ would be addressing the issue “in the days ahead.”

DOJ’s proposal to reclassify marijuana following a Biden-directed review marks “the biggest potential change in federal drug law in decades,” the campaign says. “The way our justice system has treated marijuana use has harmed individuals, families, and communities for too long. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are leading the charge to reverse long standing injustices and to right historic wrongs.”

The new webpage includes an FAQ that explains the reasoning behind the president’s cannabis clemency efforts, describes the Trump administration’s marijuana record and briefly details what a Schedule III reclassification would mean.

“Trump took no steps whatsoever to reform our country’s approach to marijuana,” the campaign says, while arguing that the decision to rescind the federal guidance empowered prosecutors “to more aggressively enforce federal laws against marijuana consumers and businesses, even in states that have decriminalized its production and sale.”

It’s not clear that Sessions’s rescission of cannabis guidance actually had that effect, but the point stands that its elimination could have theoretically signaled to prosecutors that the Trump administration would support additional enforcement activity.

“Donald Trump has no new ideas for marijuana reform, and you can expect more of the same backward-looking approach if he gets a second term in office,” the campaign says “Reelect Joe Biden to further advance our nation toward a more just future.”

Notably, it also says that research “tells us that marijuana is not as dangerous as we once believed,” which is why the Biden administration is backing a move to reschedule cannabis.

“The process was led by evidence and law and is a measure that criminal justice advocates, members of Congress, and the medical community have sought for years,” it says. “Reclassifying marijuana as a Schedule III drug will remove burdensome long standing barriers to critical research. That could mean more research into the medical benefits of marijuana, including for our veterans and Americans with chronic diseases like cancer.”

In another example of the Biden campaign’s embrace of marijuana reform, it’s recently taken out several digital ads that are promoting the president’s cannabis actions and redirect viewers to the campaign site, according to a search of Google’s ad transparency center.

The ads include ones that say “Weed Is Being Rescheduled” and “Federal Pardons For Possession.”

“Joe believes marijuana laws are outdated and failing communities,” the text of certain ads say.

“Trump Stance On Marijuana – He Thinks Weed Makes You Dumb,” another is titled, an apparent reference to the former president’s claim that cannabis use lowers a person’s IQ.

This comes as the two party presidential frontrunners are set to debate for the first time this election cycle on Thursday, and advocates are hoping to see the candidates pressed on drug policy issues.

How Trump would navigate the issue is less certain, though he’s generally indicated over the past year that he intends to position himself as an anti-drug candidate, proposing extreme policies such as giving the death penalty to people who sell illegal drugs. His record on cannabis specifically is mixed, however, and he’s been known to vacillate on various positions, depending on when he’s asked about the issue.

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