Facing a tough midterm election and divisions in Congress, the Biden administration is sidestepping the sensitive issue of loosening marijuana laws even as the idea has gained support of most Americans.
More than half of U.S. states have legalized cannabis use for some purposes. Lawmakers have proposed decriminalizing marijuana, which would entail reduced penalties for users, and have pushed for giving the industry access to banking services, reports the Wall Street Journal. Those promoting changes include a diverse range of figures, from former Republican House Speaker John Boehner to progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., NY). “If someone like myself and a progressive like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez can find some common ground, it begs the question, why hasn’t the president acted?” said Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH), who has worked on legislation to decriminalize the drug and encourage states to expunge records. “The solutions are there. It’s just a matter of political will,” he said.
Legislation to decriminalize cannabis appears stuck amid opposition from some Republicans and some moderate Democrats. President Biden hasn’t acted on his own campaign-trail promises to decriminalize marijuana and expunge criminal records of users. The White House said cannabis policy is under study. More than two in three Americans support legalizing marijuana, according to a 2021 Gallup poll. That is up from a decade ago, when half were in favor, Gallup found. “I can definitely see the Biden administration looking at rising crime rates and think it would be a messaging mistake to begin to talk about decriminalization of cannabis, about pardons and record expungement,” said John Hudak of the Brookings Institution who studies marijuana policy. Some moderate Democrats said they want to see more research before legalizing marijuana at a time when rates of abuse of other substances have risen.