Rapper and activist Killer Mike is challenging President-elect Joe Biden to take a note from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and use executive authority to broadly reform federal marijuana laws as soon as he takes office.
In an interview with TMZ that was released on Wednesday, the artist stressed the need to legalize cannabis and do it in a way that lifts up communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs. He said Biden can help facilitate that by federally descheduling marijuana through executive action on day one—a proposal Sanders pitched during his presidential run.
“I want to challenge Joe Biden to do what Bernie Sanders did,” Killer Mike, who served as a campaign surrogate for the senator, said. “He would have descheduled it the first day of his presidency. You have the power of that pen to invoke things like gun laws. You should have the power of that pen to take it off the Schedule I list so that, if nothing else, it is decriminalized to the point that kids’ lives aren’t being ruined today.”
But Biden has not indicated that marijuana reform would be an immediate priority for his administration. In fact, he remains opposed to adult-use legalization despite supermajority support within his party.
The president-elect has only gone so far as to back modest cannabis rescheduling, decriminalizing possession, expunging past records, legalizing medical marijuana and protecting states’ rights to enact their own policies. Biden did select a head of a major federal health agency who is amenable to reform, however, and in his role he could help facilitate rescheduling.
As far as Biden in concerned, he feels marijuana should be placed in Schedule II, the second most restrictive category under the Controlled Substances Act, along with cocaine. But advocates argue that does not go far enough and could have an inadvertent, adverse impact on state-legal markets. They’re pushing him to adopt a policy of complete descheduling, which would be accomplished if a bill approved by the House earlier this month makes it through the Senate and onto the president’s desk.
With respect to executive action, it should be noted that experts have raised questions about the feasibility of unilaterally ending prohibition through that process, much less on the first day of a presidency.
In the TMZ interview, Killer Mike also talked about local reform in his home state state of Georgia, stating that he will be pushing the governor and legislature to enact legalization. The policy change is inevitable, he said, but lawmakers must ensure that there’s “a presence of African-American ownership in Georgia for marijuana.”
“We have had young men serve 10, 20, 30, 40 years and then they get out and they cannot participate in the trade that they help build,” he said. “That’s like a moonshiner who moonshined through prohibition not getting the chance to have a liquor license. We’ve done that mistake before so I want to demand NORML and other marijuana organizations out there to get people of color on the forefront.”
“I’m going to be frank and say Black folks deserve it. We deserve at least 25 percent of the marijuana industry because it has truly been built on our backs, and we need more MedMen that are owned by men that look like me,” he added. “I want to demand that progressives, and especially Black Democrats that are out there, start to demand locally marijuana policy on a state level that is inclusive of the people.”
Georgia is at the center of national attention right now, as two Democratic Senate hopefuls enter into a runoff election next week. And the outcome of those races could determine the fate of federal marijuana policy because if both Democrats win, the party will retake the Senate and would be in a much better position to advance reform.