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Biden Says He’s ‘Working On’ Bill To Release Cannabis Inmates

Joe Biden, the President of the United State reiterated that cannabis should never be illegally used. Sunday’s speech stated that Biden is currently working on legislation to fulfill his campaign promise.

Biden, on his return to Washington, D.C., after a four-day visit to Israel and Saudi Arabia, spoke to a small group of reporters assembled on the White House lawn.

One reporter asked the president if he intended to honor his “campaign pledge to release all the marijuana inmates in prison.”

“I don’t think there should — I dont think anyone in pri- — anyone should be in prison for the use of marijuana,” Biden said, according to a White House pool report. “We’re working on the Crime Bill now.”

The brief response represented Biden’s most extensive and explicit comments on cannabis reform since his term began last year.

It was something Biden had said before, most recently on 2020’s campaign trail. Biden opposed marijuana-related prisoner exchange, although he is yet to support legalization of cannabis.

In a memorable interview on “The Breakfast Club” in the spring of 2020, Biden said that it “makes no sense for people to go to jail” for weed and explained why he supports decriminalization but not legalization.

“Because they’re trying to find out whether or not there is any impact on the use of marijuana, not in leading you to other drugs, but what it affects. Does it affect long term development of the brain and we should wait until the studies are done,” Biden said. “I think science matters.”

Comments like that––as well as Biden’s refusal to support an end to the federal prohibition––have frustrated cannabis reform advocates, as well as members of the president’s own party.

In November, three Democratic senators sent a letter to Biden urging him to “pardon all individuals convicted of nonviolent cannabis offenses, whether formerly or currently incarcerated.”

“Our country’s cannabis policies must be completely overhauled, but you have the power to act now: you can and should issue a blanket pardon for all non-violent federal cannabis offenses, fulfilling your promises to the American people and transforming the lives of tens of thousands of Americans,” the senators, Elizabeth Warren, Ed Markey and Jeff Merkley, wrote in the letter.

“As a candidate for President, you argued that, ‘We should decriminalize marijuana,’ and, ‘Everyone [with a marijuana record] should be let out of jail, their records expunged, be completely zeroed out,’” they wrote. “The first and simplest step in the process is a blanket pardon. The Constitution grants you the authority to pardon broad classes of Americans to correct widespread injustice, as previous presidents have done.”

Biden converted 75 people who had been sentenced for nonviolent drug offenses to life imprisonment in May and gave three complete pardons.

While there are strong Democratic support for marijuana legalization on Capitol Hill (and it is widespread), this has not translated into policy reform.

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act in April, a bill that would remove cannabis from the list of federal Controlled Substances Act.

The bill was unable to be passed in the Senate. Democratic leaders stated that they plan to bring their cannabis reform legislation into the Senate.

Chuck Schumer (Democratic leader in Senate) stated in April that marijuana legislation would be released by the caucus before August’s Congressional recess. He also promised that it would remove weed form the Controlled Substances Act.

There are increasing indications, however that Senate legislation will be much more limited than Schumer promised.

Politico reported last month that Schumer “doesn’t have the votes to pass a sweeping marijuana decriminalization bill — despite repeatedly touting his support for ending federal prohibition,” and that “realization is leading Senate Democrats to look for a compromise on weed.”