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OP-ED: We Must Hold The Biden Administration Accountable To The Black Community On Marijuana Reform
WASHINGTON, DC – FEBRUARY 28: U.S. President Joe Biden arrives for a gathering with police chiefs from throughout the nation and members of his administration within the State Eating Room on the White Home on February 28, 2024 in Washington, DC. Biden touted achievements in decreasing crime due to investments made attainable by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Legislation. (Picture by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Photographs)

Nobody ought to be in jail or arrested for marijuana. But, regardless of proof that white and Black communities use marijuana at related charges, Black people are 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people. Regardless of dozens of states passing legal guidelines to legalize marijuana for medical and grownup use, each proceed to be criminalized beneath federal marijuana regulation. A federal marijuana conviction might severely impression an individual’s potential to feed or home their household, and so many have misplaced meals advantages, housing, employment, and training.

In 2020 President Biden campaigned on a promise to finish marijuana criminalization. With a view to preserve that promise, marijuana should be descheduled, that means it should be eliminated completely from the Managed Substances Act (CSA). The CSA regulates sure medicine beneath federal regulation by putting them into one in every of 5 schedules and criminalizing unauthorized exercise. For much too lengthy Black communities have borne the brunt of the CSA’s legal penalties. It’s time to lastly finish federal marijuana criminalization by descheduling it.

Let’s simply be trustworthy — the Biden Administration has but to ship its guarantees of federal marijuana reform to Black communities. And regardless of each President Biden and Vice President Harris calling federal marijuana criminalization a racial fairness challenge, the current and anticipated actions of their Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) spotlight the hole between the Administration’s rhetoric and their willingness to really deal with it as such.

Whereas the remainder of us acknowledged the start of Black Historical past Month, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as an alternative selected the primary day of February to have fun #DEAHistory and President Nixon, who signed the CSA and infamously weaponized federal marijuana policy that targeted and harmed Black communities.

For many– the post from the Biden Administration’s DEA was a dog whistle. It’s no secret that racism was on the heart of DEA’s historical past and marijuana criminalization. Harry Anslinger believed that “reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men,” and as director of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (predecessor to the DEA) Anslinger championed the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, which criminalized marijuana on the federal stage. Per their celebration of presidency leaders who used drug coverage to criminalize Black communities, the DEA museum has an online exhibit dedicated to Anslinger’s ‘life in service.’ 

The identical federal company that right this moment celebrates President Nixon’s and Harry Anslinger’s racist historical past is now tasked with, and has the final decision over, an official assessment of how marijuana is classed beneath the CSA. Whereas this assessment doesn’t even point out any of this historical past, it’s more likely to end in an end result that might proceed perpetuating racial inequalities.

“Pledging to decriminalize marijuana and easily transferring it across the CSA is nothing greater than transferring the peas round on the plate to attempt to trick your mama into pondering you’re consuming your greens. Your mama wasn’t fooled, and neither are we.”

When initiating this review in 2022, President Biden referred to as marijuana criminalization a failure, acknowledged that Black and Brown folks had been disproportionately arrested, prosecuted, and convicted and recommended that his actions on marijuana reform would “finish the nation’s failed method” and “proper its wrongs.” 

Despite this rhetoric, it’s anticipated that the DEA will suggest that marijuana be rescheduled as a Schedule III drug, a classification that, whereas technically much less restrictive in some respects, would continue federal marijuana criminalization and its harms. The marijuana trade will have fun it as a victory as a result of it’s going to give them tax reduction, however people will nonetheless be weak to federal penalties. An individual might nonetheless lose their job over a marijuana conviction. An individual might nonetheless be deported for working in a licensed dispensary in a state the place marijuana is authorized.

The arduous fact is that rescheduling received’t decriminalize marijuana use, it received’t expunge information, and it received’t decriminalize actions presently approved beneath dozens of states’ medical and adult-use marijuana legal guidelines.

In 2020 Biden and Harris pledged to decriminalize marijuana use and expunge related records, together with this pledge of their Lift Every Voice Plan for Black America. President Biden acknowledged his function in passing drug insurance policies that “harmed Black communities,” calling them a “mistake”. Vice President Harris referred to as for systemic change when discussing marijuana decriminalization in 2020, saying “This is no time for half-steppin. This is no time for incrementalism.”

Now the Administration is claiming accountability for reforms which might be incremental at finest, and that haven’t even been absolutely realized. No matter this actuality, in marketing campaign advertisements the Biden Administration is already claiming that it has “changed federal marijuana policy”, and in marketing campaign speeches President Biden is already referring to his actions granting federal pardons for easy possession as evidence of “promises kept” on marijuana reform.

Essentially, pledging to decriminalize marijuana and easily transferring it across the CSA is nothing greater than transferring the peas round on the plate to attempt to trick your mama into pondering you’re consuming your greens. Your mama wasn’t fooled, and neither are we.

We know the difference between scattered promises and systemic change. We bear the brunt of disproportionate criminalization, and it’s as much as us to carry the Biden Administration accountable for guarantees they made to our communities. If the Biden Administration actually means to maintain their many guarantees to finish the harms of marijuana criminalization, it’s not too late. However till marijuana is totally faraway from the CSA, President Biden’s guarantees to decriminalize marijuana will stay unfulfilled.

Kassandra Frederique is the chief director of the Drug Coverage Alliance, a nationwide nonprofit that works to finish the struggle on medicine—which has disproportionately harmed Black, Latinx, Indigenous, immigrant, and LGBTQ communities—and construct options grounded in science, compassion, well being, and human rights.

Cat Packer is the director of drug markets and authorized regulation on the Drug Coverage Alliance. On this function, she leads DPA’s efforts to exchange prohibition with regulatory methods grounded in science, compassion, well being and human rights.



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