Marijuana Amnesty Edges Closer
When I was a teenager in the mid-1970s, a police record for a marijuana arrest could literally wreck your life. If a prospective employer or university ran a background check and found that you had run afoul of the law because of cannabis, you were sunk. This harsh fact was drilled into our heads by parents and teachers.
I still remember the anti-marijuana public service ads (PSAs) played in high school class. They seem laughable today, but they were deadly earnest. One line from a PSA sticks in my mind: “If you flake around with the weed, you’ll end up using the harder stuff.”
Fast forward to 2021. Powerful lawmakers are now intent on undoing that harmful legacy. The more these political leaders succeed, the greater the growth opportunities for marijuana companies.
Latest case in point: U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Barbara Lee (D-CA), together with a coalition of marijuana advocacy groups, sent a letter dated February 15 to President Joe Biden calling for him to mass pardon individuals convicted of marijuana offenses.
They argued that the plan should be modeled after President Jimmy Carter’s move to assist people who avoided the Vietnam War draft. On January 21, 1977, Carter granted an unconditional pardon to hundreds of thousands of men who evaded the draft.
The letter urges Biden “to clearly demonstrate your commitment to criminal justice reform by immediately issuing a general pardon to all former federal, non-violent cannabis offenders.” It goes on to state: “In addition, all those who are federally incarcerated on non-violent, cannabis-only offenses for activity now legal under state laws should be pardoned and their related sentences commuted. Cannabis prohibition ruins lives, wastes resources, and is opposed by a large majority of Americans.”
The letter asks Biden to follow the example of Carter, who issued a blanket pardon for those who were convicted of violating the Military Selective Service Act by draft-evasion acts or omissions committed between August 4, 1964 and March 28, 1973.
President Biden has publicly endorsed the notion of marijuana expungements and he’s likely to sign onto the idea of a mass pardon. When his $1.9 trillion fiscal stimulus bill is out of the way, marijuana amnesty will move higher on his agenda.
As of this writing, 17 states and the District of Columbia have enacted expungement, sealing, or set-aside laws specifically for marijuana offenses. Most of these jurisdictions (12 of 18) authorize people to submit petitions to expunge convictions involving small amounts of marijuana. Two states authorize petitions for a wider range of offenses with simplified procedures.
Holding police accountable…
Rep. Blumenauer previously released a police accountability plan that includes proposals to legalize marijuana and decriminalize other drugs to reduce what he claims is excessive policing of communities of color.
(A quick lesson in definitions. Decriminalization stops short of outright legalization; it means taking an act that is illegal and removing criminal penalties. Legalization means taking an act that is illegal and making it legal.)
In his accountability plan, Blumenauer cited statistics showing that black people and other minorities incur substantially higher arrest rates over marijuana compared to white people, despite roughly similar rates of consumption. The congressman said this bias represents the sort of systemic racial prejudice that recently propelled urban unrest throughout the country.
In his plan, Blumenauer states: “We cannot legislate morality but we must restrain the worst expressions of racism and discrimination, change the culture, and provide a better future for all.”
These politicians can read the polls: loosening restrictions against marijuana is increasingly popular with Americans. According to a Gallup poll released November 2020, 68% of the surveyed public favored pot legalization (see chart).
The February 15 letter to President Biden is yet another example of how the establishment is embracing marijuana “normalization.”
Marijuana remains illegal at the federal level in the U.S., but it’s only a matter of time before federal prohibition is lifted. The Democratic party, which tends to be marijuana-friendly, now controls the White House and both chambers of Congress. When the federal ban is finally repealed, the cannabis industry will experience a new wave of explosive growth.
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John Persinos is the editorial director of Investing Daily. He also writes the twice-weekly e-letter Marijuana Investing Daily. Send your questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. To subscribe to John’s video channel, follow this link.