Democrats will not become the party for cannabis advocates, despite two-thirds of Americans supporting full legalization.
The Democratic party will not stand behind cannabis legalization as an official party platform. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) rejected an amendment proposal to support legalizing cannabis at the federal level. DNC delegates voted 106-50 against the amendment, with three delegates abstaining from voting.
The DNC will instead adopt similar language used by the party’s presidential nominee, Joe Biden; decriminalization and leaving recreational cannabis up to the states will remain the DNC platform position.
“Democrats will decriminalize marijuana use and reschedule it through executive action on the federal level,” the draft platform reads. “We will support legalization of medical marijuana, and believe states should be able to make their own decisions about recreational use. The Justice Department should not launch federal prosecutions of conduct that is legal at the state level. All past criminal convictions for cannabis use should be automatically expunged.”
A task force formed by Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders expressed a similar recommendation earlier this month. Some cannabis advocates hoped Sanders, a well-known supporters of federal legalization, would push Biden on marijuana reform. That did not happen, and Biden appears determined not to change from this position.
Dennis Obduskey was the DNC delegate from Colorado who initially proposed the amendment. He linked cannabis legalization through criminal justice reform, an idea gaining momentum in political circles.
“We cannot ignore the fact that the current marijuana criminalization policy has in too many cases been used to target people of color,” Obduskey said in a virtual DNC meeting. “They are unfairly and disproportionately six times more likely to be arrested than other citizens.”
More than two-thirds of Americans support legalizing cannabis at the federal level, Pew Research Center data shows. Marijuana is currently classified as a Schedule I drug, which the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) defines “as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Gov. Ron DeSantis used this federal language to potentially block Florida voters from approving an amendment that would legalize recreational cannabis in the state.
The DNC will vote on its official platform during next month’s Democratic National Convention. It is expected to take place virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic.