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Trump ‘Took Marijuana Reform Backwards’ While President, Says Biden Reelection Campaign

LawTrump 'Took Marijuana Reform Backwards' While President, Says Biden Reelection Campaign

The Biden reelection campaign has initiated fresh criticism of the former Trump administration, focusing this time on an unexpected issue: impeding cannabis reform efforts. In an email circulated on Thursday, the campaign highlighted Vice President Kamala Harris‘s recent White House roundtable with people who received clemency for drug-related offenses, which the campaign then contrasted with what it viewed as the failures of Trump’s criminal justice reform.

“Trump and his administration took marijuana reform backwards, withdrawing guidelines to limit prosecutions of marijuana offenses that were legal under state laws,” according to a Democratic campaign email, as reported by Marijuana Moment.

Which Means What Exactly?

The Trump administration set back marijuana reform efforts by rescinding Justice Department guidance that allowed for discretion in federal cannabis prosecutions. Specifically, the email pointed to former Attorney General Jeff Sessions‘ decision to revoke the Obama-era Cole memo, which outlined priorities for federal marijuana enforcement and notably adopted a hands-off approach to state-legal cannabis activities.

While the practical ramifications of Sessions’ move were limited, legal cannabis states continued to operate their markets with minimal federal intervention. However, the symbolic significance of the decision raised concerns about a potential crackdown that never happened.

Despite criticizing the prior administration’s actions, the Biden campaign email failed to acknowledge that the current administration has also not reissued any guidance on cannabis enforcement. Attorney General Merrick Garland‘s pledge in June 2022, reiterated several times since then, to address the issue of rescheduling cannabis, remains unfulfilled.

These delays have prompted frustration among Democratic lawmakers, who recently penned another of many letters to Garland and DEA administrator Anne Milgram expressing their dissatisfaction with the lack of movement on the status of cannabis and the DEA’s reclassification.

The Biden campaign’s emphasis on cannabis reform underscores its strategy to leverage popular issues ahead of what is turning into a tight election bid with Donald Trump. By contrasting the administration’s approach with that of Trump’s, the campaign seems to be attempting to highlight its commitment to criminal justice reform, particularly concerning non-violent drug offenses.

Both Biden and Harris have also been actively promoting marijuana policy reform through various channels, including social media and public addresses, signaling the administration’s prioritization of the issue — though again with little action. These concerted efforts align with the administration’s broader focus on “Second Chance Month” (which is April) as an opportunity to rectify the harms caused by marijuana still being classified as a Schedule I drug under federal law.

One such effort was the Thursday meeting with Kim Kardashian at the White House. Harris took the opportunity to highlight Biden’s recent clemency and pardon for non-violent drug offenders, although those convicted of cannabis-related offenses were not included.

Photo: Shutterstock

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