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Weed is um er oh A Weed/ Legalize It

Way Behind Schedule


Last week we were treated to the news that the Biden Administration, through the Drug Enforcement Agency, has recommended the rescheduling of botanical cannabis from a Schedule I substance with no recognized medical value and high potential for abuse, to a Schedule III controlled substance. This move was greeted with much fanfare and lauded as an historic shift in policy from many news outlets. This may be true in a technical sense, what with the rarity of drug rescheduling, but it of course lags behind the massive, and still growing, 2/3 of the population which favors full legalization of cannabis. There are major upsides to the reschedulization, to be sure, such as allowing businesses to shed Section 208E restrictions that prevented them from applying for many business deductions and tax credits. Previously this bureaucratic red-tape hampered the profitability and even viability of many cannabis-related businesses. In addition, Schedule III substances are much easier for researchers to study and cultivate, improving our understanding of the medical value of different strains. It’s fine incremental improvement, continuing Biden’s actions from this past fall when he moved to pardon thousands of possessions charges. 

These actions fall far short of full legalization, however, continuing to leave large swathes of the sector unbanked, millions with criminal records, and the continued discriminatory enforcement of these unjust laws. Such a change can only be achieved through Congress, and while Democrats in the Senate have introduced some legislation around cannabis legalization, but unless this becomes an hot-button issue, there is little indication it can pass with a divided Congress during an election year. 

It seems like Biden and the Democrats understand this is a winning issue for them among their constituency, but as is all too emblematic the administration we see small, safe changes made to big problems. Instead of going to bat for the people and attempting to declassify cannabis entirely, Biden, as he has done with prescription drugs in healthcare, takes an incrementalist approach, drip feeding people change.  This is certainly superior to the pure obstructionism on display by Republicans in Congress, and the authoritarian drug crackdowns desired by Republican Presidents, however, these milquetoast efforts will do little to rise above the noise, especially when many of these changes won’t take effect until after the election. Democrats need to understand these incremental steps will not be sufficient to change the general sentiment in an election year and win the hearts and minds of the young people Biden wants support from. We know, from long experience, however, that these sorts of sorts of bare minimum solutions are all the Democratic party has to offer in the modern era: letting pressure out of the system without fundamentally addressing the underlying problems of inequality, racism, over-policing, militarism, ecological catastrophe, etc. To move the needle on these issues will take not just political, but economic organizing.

So, join us each Tuesday in growing solidarity to make sure that our government starts fully listening to the people, and not just placating them with small gestures!

Don't shop on Tuesday. 

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