Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (“AOC”) is calling on President Joseph Biden to begin taking unilateral action on different progressive measures, including marijuana. Earlier last week, the congresswoman tweeted that the president needed to use his executive authority, which he’d been underutilizing thus far.
She explains that there was a lot the president, who has been in office for about a year now, could do regarding healthcare, immigration, student debt, climate and marijuana, among others. Ocasio-Cortez recently filed a bipartisan measure to incentivize state-level marijuana expungements.
The congresswoman was also one of the first legislators to suggest that the president use executive authority to advance cannabis reform, joining other colleagues who sent a letter to the president earlier this year. A report that was recently published by the Congressional Research Service asserts that the president has the power to grant mass pardons for marijuana offenses, adding that the administration can also proceed with legalizing marijuana federally without waiting for action from legislators.
A separate letter has also been sent to Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris from a pair of Republican legislators who criticized their continued silence and lack of action on cannabis reform and urged the administration to reschedule marijuana federally.
These are a few of the numerous legislators who have directly demanded reform from the president. Many, including advocates for reform, are disappointed by Biden, who has declined to take any steps to change the country’s approach to marijuana despite campaigning on a prorescheduling and prodecriminalization platform.
Since the election, neither the president nor vice president have spoken about their marijuana campaign pledges. This despite many pleas from advocates and legislators to address the issue.
In November, a group of senators also sent a letter to the president urging him to utilize his executive authority to grant a mass pardon for individuals with nonviolent cannabis convictions. In a recent interview, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, one of these legislators, stated that by granting the relief, the president could promote racial equity and boost the country’s economy.
Correspondingly, a group of more than 150 academics, law enforcement professionals, politicians, athletes and celebrities also sent a letter to the president in September, which urged him to issue an unconditional and complete pardon to all individuals who had been federally convicted of nonviolent cannabis crimes. This particular letter was sent at a time when the administration was encouraging individuals who had been placed on home confinement temporarily for federal drug offenses to fill out application forms for clemency.
The harms done by the criminal justice system with regard to marijuana is just one of the thorns in the flesh of the people most affected by the prohibitionist war, and the ripples are still being felt even in jurisdictions where legalization has taken place and firms such as American Cannabis Partners operate.
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