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More Hot Air? President’s SOU Speech Fails to Impress Cannabis Rights Groups

Last Prisoner Project and American Cannabis Collective want more action, not more words.

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President Joe Biden

According to the LPP, not one of the estimated 3,000 people in federal prison for cannabis-related offenses has been released.
PHOTO: Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz @ Public Domain.

Not everyone was impressed with President Joe Biden’s remarks on cannabis at Thursday’s State of the Union Address.

“I am taking executive action on police reform and directing my cabinet to review the federal classification of marijuana and expunging thousands of convictions for the mere possession of marijuana because no one should be jailed for simply using it or have it on their record,” said Biden.

That sounded nice, and some people—mostly people that make big money in those places in the US where cannabis is legal—were notably happy to hear the executive branch once again saying it’s going to do something in the direction of legalization.  A Benzinga reports lists the notable heads of Pathogen Dx, Entourage Effect Capital, and Poseidon Investment, all pleased with the announcement.

“It’s a significant moment for the country to hear cannabis rescheduling mentioned during President Biden’s State of the Union speech,” said Curaleaf CEO Matt Darin.

“Rescheduling would contribute to further de-stigmatization of the plant, and by removing the burden of 280-E, would allow businesses to place further focus on growth and job creation,” Darin added. “For Curaleaf, removal of 280-E could equate to savings of more than $150MM in excess tax contributions.”

That would be a significant step forward for the industry if such steps were, in fact, taken.  But Biden has talked about this before, and federally everything is still pretty much the same it always was. So it’s anyone’s guess if it’s a real intention, or just another way to drum up votes going into an election year, where some 70% of American, according to a November 2023 Gallup Poll, support legalization.

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The problem that some have with Biden and his supposed support of cannabis legalization is that he isn’t do enough at the moment to show he’s serious.

“Last night, during his State of the Union address, President Biden declared that ‘no one should be jailed for simply using [cannabis].’ While this statement from a president—and the actions he has taken to pardon nearly 13,000 people and initiate a cannabis scheduling review—is historic, the work is far from done,” said Last Prisoner Project’s (LPP) Executive Director & General Counsel Sarah Gersten in a statement.

According to the group, not one of the estimated 3,000 people in federal prison for cannabis-related offenses has been released.

“Additionally, the pardons have not ‘expunged thousands of records’ nor will they alleviate the collateral consequences of a cannabis conviction like expungement or other forms of record clearance do, added Gersten.

“We need President Biden to use his clemency power to grant more commutations, push Congress to create a federal expungement mechanism, and ensure all harms from the War on Drugs are repaired”, said Gersten. “It’s time to truly right history by de-scheduling cannabis, fully legalizing it, and freeing ALL cannabis prisoners!”

Don Murphy, Co-founder of the American Cannabis Collective agrees. “[Biden] promised that he would stop sending people to jail for simple possession, but the arrests continue, and he is keeping the War on Drugs alive and well,” said Murphy.

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The ACC says that while Biden did issue a general pardon for federal offenders with simple possession, that pardon let no one out of jail. And it also has no effect at the state’s level.

“We do not know why he continues to bring up these supposed cannabis pardons, they aren’t real no matter how much they might believe their own rhetoric,” added ACC Co-founder, Carl Cameron.

Thaddeus Flint is the Managing Editor of Global Cannabis Times. He previously worked as a journalist, investigator, and luxury boutique owner. Having lived in NYC, France and Switzerland, he now resides in an off-grid A-frame on a mountain in upstate New York.

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