President Biden’s recent announcement of a pardon for federal cannabis offenses has caught the attention of observers abroad. In fact, I was quoted in an article by Brazilian journalist Anita Krepp on the subject. Unfortunately, the example being set by Biden for other countries is, in part, a bad one.
To be clear, we are not taking issue with the pardons themselves. Echoing the president’s own words, “no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana.” If other countries around the world want to release people who are in jail for use or possession offenses, great.
The problem has to do with Biden’s overall approach to cannabis. In essence, the administration’s cannabis policy appears to be a mere adjunct to its criminal justice agenda. When Biden talks about “marijuana reform”, he appears to be thinking exclusively (or almost exclusively) of remedying the impacts of the War on Drugs. Viewed in that light, the pardon and its accompanying calls represent a step of some significance.
At the same time, within this “reform” there appears to be no place at all for the development of a legal, adult-use cannabis industry. There is also little indication that Biden sees a