Joe Biden Could Decriminalize Weed in 2021. Legalizing It Is a Different Story

Biden doesn't favor the full legalization of cannabis.

This story originally appeared on Esquire U.S. Minor edits have been made by the Esquire Philippines editors.

Joe Biden has promised time and time again to be a president for all Americans. All of them. One more time for the cheap seats: all of them. As it happens, nearly all Americans (91 percent of them, to be precise; the other 9 percent likely have a stick so far up their asses they think it's touching God) believe marijuana ought to be legalized for medical use at the very least. In 2020, the country hit an all-time high of people who want the drug completely legalized—68 percent, according to Gallup. And yet, as President Biden redid the Oval Office, federally speaking, marijuana remains incredibly illegal, a Schedule I drug with "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse."

That's about as outdated a view as belief in a flattened earth.

The best that can be said about Trump's stance on marijuana is that he didn't have the bandwidth to freely spray his punitive hatred across marijuana policy; his administration set it back some but mostly ignored it. Now, reform will be a goal, if not a priority at the tip-top of Biden's extensive to-do list. As we head into four years of national optimism—weird!—and progressive legislative reform—who'd have thought!—this is where cannabis legalization efforts stand under Biden.

What is Biden's stance on legal weed?

You wouldn't call Biden "gung-ho" about weed. The man is a teetotaler who's likely never touched the stuff (unlike a young Barack Obama). Through most of public-facing life, Biden hadn't been enthusiastic about cannabis legalization—or showed even lukewarm acceptance. He was anti. However, as with many of Biden's policy positions poked to the left by more liberal contenders, the latest developments are more promising.


Last February, Politico reported that Biden had come around enough to admit, "I think it is at the point where it has to be, basically, legalized," and that he did not consider it "a gateway drug." However, his campaign promises were hardly as progressive as other Democrats, calling for decriminalization instead of legalization, as well as removing marijuana from the Schedule I list, expunging some drug-related criminal records, and blocking federal interference in states with legalized weed. That said, it's an improvement on any of the previous 45 presidents.

Are you right to be perplexed, borderline pissed off, that Biden hasn't committed to more? Sure you are. Drug enforcement, especially that concerned with kinda-lame drugs like marijuana in minority communities, is intrinsically tied into over-policing. Biden has committed himself to criminal justice for Black and brown people. Decriminalizing weed doesn't prevent Black and brown people from being stuck with fines, targeted by police. And while the legal weed industry is exploding in some states, in others, they're blocked from profiting off it, even though they were locked up at radically disproportional rates for decades because of it. For the record, that industry is very white and VC-centric right now. That's not great.

This story originally appeared on Esquire.comMinor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.

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Sarah Rense
Sarah Rense is the Lifestyle Editor at Esquire, where she covers tech, food, drinks, home, and more.
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