Last month New York became the 15th state (in addition to Washington, D.C.) to legalize recreational pot use. The bill that Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed includes extensive provisions to address issues of racial equity. It not only expunges past convictions for marijuana-related offenses, but it also guarantees that 40 cents of every dollar in tax revenue from pot sales will go toward the minority communities that have been hardest hit by the consequences of drug enforcement.
Congress is on the move, too. On Monday, the House easily passed a bill that would eliminate federal laws that make it a crime for banks to do business with marijuana companies in states that have legalized the weed trade; 106 Republicans joined a united Democratic conference in voting for the bill.
But Mr. Schumer has indicated that he’s loath to pass a smaller bill, when what he’s really aiming for is all-out legalization. “I’ve always been of the view that while certainly we have to deal with the banking and financial issues that we should do them together with legalization,” he told Marijuana Moment.
The one major Democratic figure who has not yet come around on legalizing weed is the most prominent of them all: President Biden. He said on the campaign trail that he would support decriminalizing it but that he felt further study was needed before he’d be comfortable legalizing it completely. Asked about legalization last month, the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said the president’s stance “has not changed.”
As you might remember reading in this newsletter, the Biden White House recently fired five staff members at least partly because of their past use of marijuana. Mr. Biden, who was an architect of some of the most punitive legislation passed during the war on drugs, has been slow to match the Democratic Party’s change of heart on marijuana policy.
Bonita Bo Money, the founder of the National Diversity and Inclusion Cannabis Alliance, said her group and others that had supported Biden’s presidential campaign last year were waiting on him to fully get behind legalization. “It’s not moving the way that we think that it should,” she said of the administration’s stance.
By the same token, Ms. Money said she was wary of legalization happening too quickly, emphasizing the importance of developing a robust plan to create a pipeline into the cannabis industry for people in communities of color. Before the Biden administration gets behind legalization, she said, she hoped it would create “a good social equity program.”