As part of sweeping recommendations touching upon subjects ranging from climate change to criminal justice reform to healthcare, the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force Recommendations recently previewed a framework for federal cannabis regulation under a Biden administration. Although the framework is thin on details, it reaffirms the widely-held belief among Democrats that the federal government should decriminalize cannabis and take affirmative steps to erase the scars of past criminal convictions arising from cannabis use.
Most importantly, the recommendations confirm that the Biden administration would decriminalize cannabis use and reschedule it through executive action on the federal level. In turn, they also confirm that the Biden administration would not shoehorn the Justice Department into launching federal prosecutions of conduct that is legal at the state level. Rather, the Biden administration would support legalization of medicinal cannabis at the state level and leave it to the states to make their own decisions about recreational use. This more welcoming federal policy may accelerate the proliferation of adult-use cannabis laws and regulations across the nation.
Finally, the recommendations also address the continuing fallout from decades of enforcement of criminal laws related to cannabis. They boldly declare that “[a]ll past criminal convictions for cannabis use should be automatically expunged” and forecast the removal of cannabis use from the list of deportable offenses. In addition, the recommendations call on states to re-invest tax revenue from the cannabis industry to repair damage to Black and brown communities that have been disproportionately disadvantaged by the criminalization of cannabis.
Despite these lofty reparative goals, the recommendations provide scant details on implementation. Likewise, the recommendations do not feature any FDA or CMS policies on medicinal cannabis, nor do they address how this more permissive federal posture might (or should) lead to greater banking access for the cannabis industry. As the Biden campaign continues to fill out this initial Task Force framework, more details are sure to follow.