With the inauguration of a new Democratic president under our belt and the support of a Democrat-controlled Congress, the prospect of federal cannabis decriminalization seems closer than ever. Cannabis CEOs across the country are crossing their fingers for reform bills, and even full legalization. Optimism began to grow in early December when the House passed the MORE Act, which would remove federal penalties and expunge records. Sen. Chuck Schumer plans to make legalization a major priority, but even with strides being made, legalization could be an uphill battle.
Cannabis under Biden
President Joe Biden’s current stance on cannabis is somewhat positive. He used to oppose legalization and even called it a gateway drug. As a senator, he supported harsh penalties on drug offenses. Like many other seasoned politicians, his stance has evolved over time. Recently, he has stated his support for decriminalization.
During his campaign, Biden was one of the few candidates who didn’t support full, federal legalization, and even called cannabis a “gateway drug.” Now, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris — who also formerly opposed legalization — have a plan that includes decriminalizing cannabis, expunging some cannabis-related records, making medical marijuana legal and creating opportunities for more research.
Criminal justice reform & entrepreneurship
Of course, one of the major pushes for legalization is criminal justice. Black and brown Americans have been disproportionately targeted under marijuana prohibition. Black people are arrested for marijuana possession at nearly four times the rates of white Americans, even though both ethnicities consume marijuana at roughly the same rates.
Legalization is a step in the right direction to right the wrongs for the thousands incarcerated, but for some, it isn’t enough. Many advocating for reform stress the need to expunge the criminal records for those arrested and/or incarcerated for marijuana offenses. This step is necessary to make it easier for these Americans to move on with their lives and become impactful members of society.
Some advocates have also called for Black and brown cannabis entrepreneurs — and even released offenders — to be prioritized for licenses and funding to start their businesses. California and Illinois already have steps in place to do just that. Business mogul and musician Jay Z is even starting a $10 million fund to boost minority-owned cannabis businesses. Of course, Jay Z recently invested in a cannabis company called Mogul.
Business leaders and investors alike seem optimistic about the potential of the growing market. What do you think?
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