Cannabis legalization is one of the rare political issues in an evermore divided United States that the majority Americans from all backgrounds continue to support.
But to date, both President Donald Trump and Democrat front-runner Joe Biden have failed to provide a viable strategy to end federal weed prohibition or to facilitate the growing, state-sanctioned retail industry.
That’s why activists at NORML this week have launched a new petition calling on both parties to commit to ending federal marijuana criminalization and enact the politically popular policy reforms.
NORML argues if the two major party candidates want to galvanize more support they should listen to Americans on the legalization issue.
According to a nationwide Gallup poll, two-thirds of U.S. adults are in favour of legalizing recreational weed, including most Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. Meanwhile, a Pew Research Center poll from last November garnered almost the exact same results with 67 per cent supporting legalization.
Sometimes you just have to tell politicians what you want them to do.
So we did.
Add your name:https://t.co/uAMgi8ZtNg
— NORML (@NORML) July 17, 2020
The NORML petition calls on Trump and Biden to deschedule weed from the Controlled Substances Act, which would hand over the power to the states to regulate the adult-use market without federal interference.
Furthermore, the reform group demands the federal government to support the expungement of all low-level cannabis convictions at national, state or local enforcement levels.
NORML says a portion of revenues generated from the legal cannabis industry should be reinvested in the communities most adversely impacted by the war on drugs. The lucrative, growing sector should create ownership opportunities for small businesses that promote social justice and equity, the petition adds.
Federal leadership is needed to make legal weed more equitable
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, black people are 3.64 times more likely than white people to be arrested for possession, although usage rates remain similar while state-level legalization grows. Meanwhile, the global cannabis industry is on pace to grow to almost US$74 billion by 2027, yet only 4.3 per cent of business owners are black, versus 81 per cent who are white.
In the U.S., around one cannabis arrest takes place every 37 seconds, and states spend over US$3.6 billion enforcing possession laws.
“The criminalization of marijuana financially burdens taxpayers, encroaches upon civil liberties, engenders disrespect for the law, impedes legitimate scientific research into the plant’s medicinal properties, and disproportionately impacts communities of colour,” NORML executive director Erik Altieri said in a statement.
“Americans demand a President who recognizes this reality and who will seek to amend federal law in a manner that comports with scientific consensus, public opinion, and the plant’s rapidly evolving cultural status.”
Legalization likely regardless of who sits in The White House
The Biden campaign released a 107-page policy document last week, which included several cannabis reform initiatives.
However, advocate lambasted the Biden camp for suggesting to only reschedule cannabis in lieu of removing the plant entirely from the listed of controlled substances. NORML argues that would be like going from treating weed like heroin to treating it like cocaine.
President Trump has mostly skirted the issue telling reporters in April that legalization should be left up to states.
Despite a lack of support from either candidate, a long-time Democrat senator said this week reform is likely coming anyway.
Sen. Ed Markey told The Young Jurks podcast that if his party claims power in both chambers of Congress in November, lawmakers will “quickly” legalize weed regardless of who is in The White House.
Illinois reported this week it has collected US$52 million in adult-use cannabis tax revenue in the first six months of legalization. Combining medical purchases, the state’s legal industry is expected to reach sales of US$1 billion in 2020.