President Joe Biden Still Opposes Cannabis Legalization

President Joe Biden has apparently not changed his view on legalizing cannabis at the federal level, despite Mexico now on the verge of joining Canada as two of only three countries in the world with legal cannabis nationwide.

In response to a recent question, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden had not changed his position from where it was during the presidential campaign. Biden was one of the only candidates not in favor national legalization. At the time, he said that “nobody should be jailed for smoking pot” and favored no longer making possession of small amounts of cannabis a crime.  He also has supported allowing states to decide on the issue.

“He spoke about this on the campaign. He believes in decriminalizing the use of marijuana, but his position has not changed,” Psaki said.

Biden Fires Staffer For Past Cannabis Use

Many cannabis advocates had hoped that Biden might change his position, but Biden threw that into doubt when his administration fired staffers after discovering their past cannabis use. In total, five staffers have been let go. More have been sent to remote work locations or otherwise demoted.

The White House has since issued a statement saying: “No one has been let go due to marijuana usage from years ago. No one has been let go due to casual or infrequent use during the prior 12 months.”

The extent of use apparently is part of the administration’s considerations on whether a staff can stay. Staffers also must promise to stop using marijuana.

That prompted the United States Office of Personnel Management to release a statement from acting director Kathleen M. McGettigan. She wrote that people cannot be terminated from government positions for marijuana use alone.

“Even where an individual has illegally used marijuana without evidence of substantial rehabilitation, agencies cannot find an individual unsuitable unless there is a nexus between the conduct and the ‘integrity or…efficiency of the service,” McGettigan wrote in the statement.

Biden’s Position on Cannabis Legalization

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) are currently working on legislation that most expect will call for marijuana legalization at the federal level.

Psaki’s statement seems to indicate Biden will still not support that bill, placing him in the unusual position of possibly vetoing a bill backed by his own party.

In addition to calling for decriminalizing the possession of cannabis, Biden also advocates legalizing medical marijuana. While he also wants to let states set their own policies, he has called for expunging the legal records of those previously convicted of marijuana possession.

The other North America countries have moved forward with legalization. Canada began legal cannabis sales nationwide in 2018. In early 2021, Mexican lawmakers took a big step toward legalizing marijuana at the national level. Some cannabis advocates hoped that the action taken by lawmakers could convince Biden to change his position on cannabis legalization. So far, that is not the case.

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