A chief advocate for marijuana reform in Congress said in a recent interview that presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s proposal to decriminalize cannabis is “essentially meaningless” at a time when a bipartisan majority of Americans support full legalization.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) was asked about Biden’s marijuana platform during an interview with an executive of cannabis company Canopy Growth Corporation. He said that he’s been actively discussing the issue with the campaign and Biden “is evolving” despite his ongoing opposition to legalization—but he “needs to embrace it.”
In the meantime, the former vice president’s pledge to simply decriminalize marijuana at the federal level doesn’t go far enough, the congressman said.
“It is demanded by the American public. It’s no longer controversial,” Blumenauer, who is co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, said of legalization. “For the campaign to talk about decriminalization is essentially meaningless. Your grandmother is for decriminalization.”
Watch Blumenauer discuss Biden’s decriminalization proposal below:
“Over two-thirds of the American public supports full legalization. A majority of Republicans support full legalization. An overwhelming majority of young people,” he went on to say. “I think that’s where we’re going. I’m optimistic that, before the election, we’ll get a better statement. But ultimately, what’s going to matter is what we do in Congress and we are poised, maybe even this Congress, to fully legalize, but certainly in the next Congress.”
The congressman, who similarly told Marijuana Moment in a recent interview that he expects Biden to be a “constructive player” on cannabis policy if elected, also talked about the political dynamics behind a House-passed policing reform bill that did not include marijuana provisions.
He said that while House leadership is in favor of legalization, there was some holdout in the Congressional Black Caucus, which played a significant role in the drafting of the legislation.
“There’s some residual tension, dating back to Ronald Reagan—dating back to Richard Nixon’s war on drugs,” he said. “It has a complex set of interrelationships. There are some leaders in the Black Caucus like [former Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY)], who were deeply concerned about the impact of crack cocaine on their neighborhoods and they were, to say the very least, ambivalent about legalization.”
“That’s being sorted out, but we have not given up. I have taken this message to the Democratic leadership. I’ve been in consultation with leaders in the Black Caucus who understand the devastating impact that criminalization of cannabis has had on young black men in particular. It wasn’t ready to be part of a consensus document, but there is real momentum, there’s understanding, that this is important.”
While discussing Biden’s marijuana policy agenda, Blumenauer repeated a theory he’d previously voiced that if former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had backed legalization during her 2016 presidential run, she would have been elected. “I will go to my grave convinced” of that, he said.
“If she could have put together a coherent, rational position on legalization of cannabis, she would have been president,” the congressman argued. “She wouldn’t have to worry about 78,000 votes in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.”
Despite that possibility, Clinton recently played into the idea that consuming marijuana makes people do dumb things, writing last week that the author of a widely criticized New York Times column may have been high when she wrote it.
Blumenauer also said that, regardless of where Biden stands on cannabis, lawmakers will advance legalization either this or next Congress.
Photo courtesy of Flickr/Marc Nozell.