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Biden-Sanders Policy Statement Drops Federal Pot Legalization

The effort the legalize marijuana nationwide got short shrift from the Biden campaign.

In an effort to unite the moderate and progressive wings of the Democratic Party, presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden and rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, released policy recommendations from their joint “Unity Task Force” earlier this month.

While not the official Democratic Party platform, the report brings together the candidates’ views on many positions to create a foundation for what the platform should look like at next month’s national convention.

The marijuana policy mostly followed Biden’s previous positions on the drug. The recommendation is to decriminalize marijuana use on the federal level and support legalization of medical marijuana. However, the legalization of recreational marijuana will be left to the states.

The task force document also said, “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. And rather than involving the criminal justice system, Democrats support increased use of drug courts, harm reduction interventions, and treatment diversion programs for those struggling with substance use disorders.”

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The recommendations also “encourage states to invest tax revenue from legal marijuana industries to repair damage to Black and brown communities hit hardest by incarceration.”

Nationwide legalization was pushed off the table despite two-thirds of Americans supporting the policy, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center. The survey said “an overwhelming majority of U.S. adults (91%) say marijuana should be legal either for medical and recreational use (59%) or that it should be legal just for medical use (32%). Fewer than one-in-ten (8%) prefer to keep marijuana illegal in all circumstances.”

The Pew report found wide partisan and generational differences in views of legalization. Among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, 78% said marijuana use should be legal. But only 55% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents were in favor of legalization.

Majorities of Millennials (born between 1981 and 1997), Generation X (born between 1965 and 1980) and Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) said marijuana use should be legal, according to the Pew report. However, only 35% of the members of the Silent Generation (born between 1928 and 1945) supported legalization.

Most of the Unity Task Force’s recommendations lean toward Biden’s modedrate positions, rather than progressive policy proposals. The policies not adopted included “Medicare for All” health care coverage, a Green New Deal, ending the department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the defunding of police departments.

The boldest policy adoption came from the climate task force co-chaired by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) and former Secretary of State John Kerry. The new policy is to accelerate the timeline to reach net-carbon emissions.

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