Biden’s Support for Pot Prohibition Belies His Recognition of the Harm It Causes

sangriana-iStock-823603532
iStock-823603532

Washington, DC – -(AmmoLand.com)-

“We have to hold every drug user accountable,” Sen. Joe Biden declared in 1989, “because if there were no drug users, there would be no appetite for drugs, and there would be no market for them.”

The mass pardon for low-level marijuana offenders that the president announced last week suggests how far he has traveled since his years as a gung-ho drug warrior, even as it demonstrates that he remains out of step with the times.

Biden’s decision applies to anyone convicted of simple marijuana possession under the Controlled Substances Act or the District of Columbia Code. He said the pardons will help “thousands of people who were previously convicted of simple possession” and “who may be denied employment, housing, or educational opportunities as a result.”

As an act of clemency, the blanket pardon is massive. But in the context of a prohibition that has generated nearly 29 million arrests since 1965, it looks less impressive.

Rep. Dave Joyce (R-Ohio), co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, notes that “more than 14 million cannabis-related records at the state and local level continue to preclude Americans from stable housing and gainful employment.” [and gun ownership]

Because simple marijuana possession is rarely prosecuted at the federal level, the vast majority of such cases are beyond the president’s clemency powers. But Biden’s mercy notably did not extend to people convicted of manufacturing or distributing marijuana under federal law, who still languish in prison or carry the lifelong burden of felony records.

The injustice of that situation is especially striking now that most states treat those federal felonies as legitimate business activities. Depending on the jurisdiction, the same conduct that can send someone to federal prison for years, decades or even life can make someone else a rich and respected entrepreneur.

By himself, Biden does not have the authority to resolve the untenable conflict between state and federal marijuana laws. But despite his avowed transformation from an anti-drug zealot into a criminal justice reformer, he has stubbornly opposed efforts to repeal the federal ban on marijuana.

That position is contrary to the preferences expressed by more than two-thirds of Americans, including four-fifths of Democrats and half of Republicans. The most Biden is willing to offer them is his rhetorical support for decriminalizing cannabis consumption — a policy that was on the cutting edge of marijuana reform in the 1970s.

Fifty years ago, when less than 20% of Americans thought pot should be legal, the Nixon-appointed Shafer Commission recommended that “possession of marihuana for personal use no longer be an offense.” President Jimmy Carter endorsed decriminalization in 1977, when he told Congress that “penalties against possession of a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself.”

Half a century later, Biden has finally come around to that position. “Sending people to jail for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives — for conduct that is legal in many states,” he said on Twitter last week.

The same thing is true of sending people to jail for growing or selling marijuana, of course, although that is a point Biden refuses to acknowledge. The moral logic of his distinction between simple possession and other marijuana offenses is hard to follow.

Back in 1989, when Biden was keen to show that Democrats could be even tougher on drugs than Republicans, he correctly identified the source of the problem he was fighting: Americans who defied the law by choosing to consume intoxicants that Congress had arbitrarily proscribed. Without those individual decisions, he noted, there would be no black market to suppress.

Now Biden says marijuana use should not be treated as a crime. But if so, how can helping people use marijuana justify arresting, prosecuting, and imprisoning anyone?


About Jacob Sullum

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine. Follow him on Twitter: @JacobSullum. During two decades in journalism, he has relentlessly skewered authoritarians of the left and the right, making the case for shrinking the realm of politics and expanding the realm of individual choice. Jacobs’ work appears here at AmmoLand News through a license with Creators Syndicate.

Jacob Sullum
Jacob Sullum
Subscribe
Notify of
33 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
KenW

The feds have no intention of legalizing marijuana for the simple reason that even if legal state-wise at the federal level it can still be used to deny you your “right to keep and bear arms”
Read the question on ATF Form 4473, there is no exemption for using pot.

Bigfootbob

Thanks for pointing that out.

What about this? https://www.facebook.com/NikkiForFL/photos/a.208221859993662/931383784344129/?type=3

And this?

https://www.heraldtribune.com/story/news/local/sarasota/2019/08/22/cox-will-feds-bust-nikki-fried-for-having-marijuana-card-and-concealed-carry-permit/986623007/

Personally, I firmly believe until we follow Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals Rule #4, (and the rest too, #5 is most potent), “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.” And start using their tactic of “The Process is Punishment” there will continue to be double standards.

This person deserves the General Flynn/Mayor Giuliani/Steve Bannon style visit and limo ride, in the back, to a certain public building for a spa day or more.

Last edited 2 months ago by Bigfootbob
Ope

Yep, the feds can use pot as a means to have more control. Pot is an issue they should have no control or regulation over, but for whatever reasons the SOB’s do.

gregs

“reefer madness” continues to this day. that pot is in the same class as heroin and in a higher class than fentanyl is absurd. https://www.dea.gov/drug-information/drug-scheduling this whole list needs to be revisited. homemade alcohol was legal, then illegal, now legal. why do governments get to decide what people consume? that is the epitome of tyranny. thought, of course, you must be held accountable for your actions. even with the legalization of pot there is still a black market because of government regulations, and there will always be until the government totally decriminalized growing, possession and usage of pot. having inhaled… Read more »

swmft

government should advise on safety and prosicute people who endanger others nothing more

Stag

Government has absolutely zero constitutional authority to regulate the possession and use of any substance. To say that government can dictate what adults choose to put into their own bodies is to say that one has no bodily autonomy and you are essentially a slave to the state.

Ledesma

Most of the drugs that are strictly controlled in the United States are available upfront in Tijuana. The United Staes grossly overregulates pharmacy items. Even though most oral medications are non-narcotic, they’ve been added to reinforce the nations strict DUI laws anyway. Even though they produce no intoxicating effect whatsoever.

DunRanull

My body, my right, my choice! That being said, I don’t drink alkie, don’t smoke weed, now if I could just kick the cigs I’d be 3 for 3! That tobacco is nigh impossible to quit once hooked…

Wild Bill

My body, my choice is just a political slogan so that someone can get elected, dress up, talk smart, and live in the big house.
Many social security recipients have voluntarily disabled themselves by drug use, yet, receive full benefits. Who supports that?
The fact is that in todays healthcare scheme, society has a vested interest in preventing drug use.

Quatermain

The first wave of governmental over reach and tyranny occurred in the 1930’s with gold confiscation, prohibition on automatic weapons and drug bans. Not one of these things was constitutional! We are still suffering under the fallout of this and now the fedgov is adding even more to their file. What needs to be banned is the current fedgov.

Wild Bill

Well … the Fedgov’s overreach, anyway.

Hazcat

Get an instant test so I can see if you’re DUI and we’ll talk about legalizing it like alcohol.

Bigfootbob

I’m not sure, but I believe there’s one on the market. Washington was one of the first to legalize pot for recreational use. It was legal 10 years prior to that for people with doctor signed authorizations. Just shy of 20 years not considering pot a criminal element. About the DUI thing, if you get pulled over and the cop thinks you’re high on the hippy lettuce the cop can force you to take a blood test or lose your drivers license for a year I think, too much hippy lettuce this morning, just kidding. I live close to several… Read more »

Arny

But they should produce a test to show you are impaired by weed. Because a blood test only verifies you have used it within supposedly 30 days. Are you still under the effects after 30 days ? NEVER. Not even 24 hrs or 8. So if a user say you get hurt at work 2 days after using, you can still lose your job. But yet if one was to drink two days before they would keep said job. Same applies when driving, boating, etc. One can drink & still have 2A rights. But yet someone can not smoke weed… Read more »

JayWPB

LOBDOCK Breathalyzer
EPOCH Saliva Test
Several others on the market also test for recent use of THC. Things might change when these testing devices are approved for PD field use, and the results are accepted by the courts.

Quatermain

Alcohol was legal before prohibition and is again. it was actually banned in a legal manner., There is no legal, constitutional, authority for the feds to ban a substance. Prohibition was legal for a time. Fed bans on drugs are blatantly unconstitutional. People like you would use the federal hammer on those you disagree with and that makes you a hypocrite.

Wild Bill

Prohibition of the producing and selling of alcohol was done by Constitutional Amendment. Repeal of prohibition was accomplished by amending the Constitution. That is far different from an act of Congress, signed by the president.
As to prohibition of substances, Congress has the power to regulate commerce, up to and including total exclusion from interstate commerce. Please see US Constitution, Article 1, section 8 (3).

Paul1911ACP

 We are in an experiment with cannabis use. Very few long term studies have been done.
Unlike most pharmaceuticals dosages are not set.
How much THC is in that joint? We know what long term excessive use of alcohol does.
I don’t want impaired person driving or carrying a weapon weather drugs or alcohol.
Responsible use of both is warranted. However both are abused and our impaired driving here has increased since legalization.
Personally I don’t know what the right answer is. Legalize or not to legalize more information is needed.

swmft

the studies that were done all were negative ,it does brain and lung damage does it have legitimate uses arsenic cures some diseases so I am sure it does

Quatermain

It has no lethal does (LD) associated with it, alcohol does. the fedgov has no constitutional authority to ban substances. What more do you need to know?

Wild Bill

Actually, the Fedgov does have constitutional authority to ban substances. The Commerce Clause.

Wild Bill

That is not true. Article 1, section 18 (the last of a list of Congress’s powers) “To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers …” Please see US Constitution Article 1, section 18
So the Constitution is a framework of the highest law, and other Congressional Acts are statutes that are used to execute Congress’s powers.

3l120

OK, I am gonna put my 2-cents worth in, regardless of upsetting the potheads. Mary Jane is bad stuff. It is worse than booze. I was a court certified DRE, Drug Recognition Expert in L.A. grass is bad stuff. It screws you up badly. Your long term symptoms are bad. It is not good stuff. Maybe not heroin or pills or meth bad, but it does distort reality. The more we decide to legalize It the the more crimes, especially DUI, potheads will commit. Moderation in all things,except drugs!

Montana454Casull

Sounds like alcohol has clouded your judgement . I see more people with serious alcohol issues than I do with weed issues. Alcohol kills way more people than pot and destroys lives and families. But you keep demonizing weed because it fits your false narratives .

swmft

even oxygen and water can kill, all things in moderation

DunRanull

“Court Certified Drug Recognition Expert”??? BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That right there is FUNNY, I don’t care WHO ya are, that’s a HOOT! Seems like YOUR reality is the one “distorted”…

Wild Bill

Believe as you will, but his testimony will be accepted as evidence in court.

Ope

Bill, his testimony or alleged credentials will be accepted as evidence in court? It seems to me he’s just stating opinions that have been refuted for decades about the evils of marijuana. Plus,in 2l120’s very first sentence he implies that anyone who disagrees with his 0.2 worth is a pothead. That’s a ridiculous thing to say.

Last edited 2 months ago by Ope
Wild Bill

I only spoke to the legal issue of his evidentiary status as a DRE.

Ope

Bill, I understand that. But if he made that statement in court, and does in fact have the credentials he claims, that doesn’t make his testimony true or factual. There’s been so many “expert witnesses” I’ve seen over the years, that look at the same exact evidence , and arrive at opposite conclusions. Anyway, how everything going out at the ranch? I sure hope Tripod is doing OK.

Last edited 2 months ago by Ope
Wild Bill

Yes, each bit of evidence must be weighed by the trier of fact. The cat is fine. The oldest dog died. Prep for winter continues.

Ope

Bill, I think Texas is going to have a frigid winter too. Sorry about the dog.

Ope

Houston Astros whip Philadelphia Phillies to win 2022 World Series ! Life’s great in TEXAS.