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Photo: By Gage Skidmore from Surprise, AZ, United States of America – Joe Biden, CC BY-SA 2.0
If you are keeping up with the pre-election news, you could forget that support for the decriminalization of cannabis is bipartisan. The Democratic party has been vocal about supporting the “green wave” for legalization in a more persistent way as a critical point in the party’s platform for the 2020 election.
A quick survey of many news articles that are pro-cannabis reform right now shows a strong Democratic voice for legalization. To the extent that voters may feel that the Republican party is decidedly against cannabis legal reform. Or access to medical marijuana for patients.
Not only does President Trump support the expansion of doctor-supervised access to medical cannabis for patients, but many representatives from the Republican party also do as well. And it is important to understand the difference between the Republican and Democratic stance on the legalization of cannabis.
Presidential Candidate Joe Biden’s Contribution to the War on Drugs
While Presidential Candidate Joe Biden has built a social equity and cannabis reform platform, he does not support recreational cannabis use. That is one key point that Biden and President Trump agree on. On more than one occasion, President Trump has pointed out something that pro-cannabis and social equity votes should remember. Joe Biden was also an active participant and architect in the legislation that created “The War on Drugs.”
Many of the social and racial stigmas associated with cannabis use stemmed from the Anslinger era of the 1950s. However, when Nancy Regan launched the “Say No to Drugs” campaign, it reinforced the Republican party’s recreational use stance.
If you remember the Regan era’s campaign, it focused on preventing children from accessing controlled substances. That included alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis.
When President Obama was elected to office, there was a new “War on Drugs.” And during the 1980s and the 1990s, Biden was a prominent Democratic leader who helped spearhead America’s war on drugs. Biden was critical of then-President George H.W. Bush, who announced plans to escalate the war on drugs.
The War on Drugs: Thirty-One Years Ago, Joe Biden Supported Mass Incarceration
It would be one thing to support the war on drugs. But in the 1980s and 1990s, Joe Biden was the Head of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He did more than endorse the war on drugs. Biden helped to write and enact several laws that increased penalties for drug offenders. Even cannabis users, charged with possession of a personal amount or <2 ounces.
Joe Biden has historically taken a very hard line in the “War on Drugs”. Not just against cartels and organized crime, but against recreational users. In 1989, Joe Biden made the following statement:
“Quite frankly, the president’s plan is not tough enough, bold enough, or imaginative enough to meet the crisis at hand,” and furthered that America needed to “hold every drug user accountable.”
When asked to critique President Bush’s strategy to reduce drug addiction and organized crime groups that trafficked controlled substances, Joe Biden stated that the plan:
“doesn’t include enough police officers to catch the violent thugs, not enough prosecutors to convict them, not enough judges to sentence them, and not enough prison cells to put them away for a long time.”
That was thirty-one years ago. Has Joe Biden’s stance changed regarding social equity? Does he see the decriminalization of marijuana as a separate priority? His support on the war against drugs through several Presential administrations influenced the incarceration rates of cannabis users. Recent statistics reveal that people of color are incarcerated 4x’s more often than Caucasian charged with cannabis offenses. Joe Biden contributed to that zero-tolerance culture.
The 1994 Crime Law that Joe Biden wrote began to increase drug offense incarceration rates drastically.
How Does President Trump Feel About Medical Cannabis?
The President of the United States, Donald Trump, does not support the legalization of adult-use cannabis. This is in keeping with the Conservative party platform. For Republican voters, the idea of federal legalization (where any adult can buy cannabis at any time) does not sit well. They are opposed to legal free-for-all when it comes to cannabis.
President Trump is a business leader and an unapologetic capitalist. In that regard, the President understands that legalized medical marijuana services two essential purposes. First, it provides alternative therapy options for people with severe health disorders and symptoms. Second, it provides a valuable (and pandemic and recession-proof) source of tax revenues that states need to support budgetary constraints.
President Trump would like to see regulations that:
Decriminalize the personal use of cannabis. This includes possession of plants and cannabis products by someone who is not a licensed medical cardholder.
Consider expungement legislation to help reduce the population of Americans currently incarcerated on cannabis charges.
Permitting states to self-govern in terms of whether or not they legalize medical cannabis. That includes defining qualifying health conditions, fees, and renewal procedures. This also extends to defining certifications and training that physicians must have to certify patients for the MMJ program.
Potentially rescheduling cannabis out of the Schedule 1 classification. This would allow for legislation needed to decriminalize cannabis use or possession for personal amounts.
So, while Democratic candidates have embraced the legalization, decriminalization, and social equity goals for the 2020 electoral run, Republicans are no less supportive. Neither President Trump nor the majority of republicans is opposed to medical marijuana. They believe that doctor-supervised alternative medicines do have a place in American healthcare. To better the lives of patients. But not without safety measures, which includes doctor certification of medical card patients.
The Republicans do follow a party line of being opposed to recreational use. They are less vocal about it as a specific platform focus for the 2020 election.
Republican Also Support Decriminalization of Cannabis
Think that only Democratic politicians support cannabis reform? A survey completed in November of 2019 by Pew Research tells a different story.
The Republicans do follow a party line of being opposed to recreational use. They are less vocal about it as a specific platform focus for the 2020 election. The report shared that about two-thirds of Americans now support the decriminalization of cannabis. But that doesn’t mean Americans support a legalized national adult-use (recreational) country either.
Opinions among Republicans regarding the legalization of cannabis vary by generation. Some of the insights from the report revealed:
Millennial Republicans are 75% supportive of cannabis legalization.
55% of Generation X Republicans were supportive of the decriminalization of marijuana.
49% of Baby Boomer aged Republicans were in favor of legalization.
76% of the Silent Generation (born 1928 – 1945) are opposed to decriminalization and the legalization of recreational cannabis.
No matter what party you are voting for, both the Democrats and the Republicans are supportive of cannabis decriminalization. And for the expansion of medical marijuana programs. But turning the United States into Amsterdam with a “recreational for all” political platform?
That’s not on the ticket for Conservative Republicans.