On the same day when his opponent Sen. Kamala Harris announced a progressive marijuana decriminalization proposal, it appears former Vice President Joe Biden will respond with cannabis reform of his own. Most Democratic presidential candidates have already endorsed or expressed interest in substantial reform at the federal level around marijuana.
Biden remains out of step from his opponents in stating unequivocally that he would not legalize marijuana. But in a plan released by his presidential campaign, Biden released a criminal justice plan that includes expungement of all past marijuana use convictions. This plan would remove cannabis from its Schedule I classification, which characterizes a drug of having “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Heroin, LSD, and MDMA are also classified as Schedule I drugs.
Again, many top-tier presidential candidates have called for the total declassification of cannabis. Instead Biden intends to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II drug, which would put on the same level as fentanyl, cocaine, and methamphetamines. This would serve as an important step, as it would open the federal government to research cannabis more freely.
“He very much believes that we need more research and study the positive and negative impact of cannabis use,” an aide, speaking anonymous, told VICE News. “There are a number of negative side effects of cannabis or side effects that we don’t fully understand. But he is here saying no one should be in jail because of cannabis use.”
That said, Biden wouldn’t stand in the way of states legalizing recreational cannabis and would support the legalization of medical marijuana at the federal level. According to his plan, Biden would also follow in Obama’s footsteps by commuting the sentences of non-violent drug offenders.
In addition, his proposal would call for the end of sentencing criminals for drug use alone. Instead federal court would be required to divert those convicts to drug courts, where they’d receive referrals for treatment options. State courts would also be encouraged to do the same, thanks to a federal grant worth $20 billion that Biden would offer.