President-elect Biden will soon announce his pick for the next Attorney General, and rumors are already swirling over possible candidates. For cannabis consumers and patients, as well as reformers, regulators, and members of the industry, few roles in the federal government will be more important than that of the United States Attorney General.
The choice president-elect Biden makes will say a lot about the mindset of our next president and the role federal law enforcement will take. This is where the rubber meets the road and is a critical test of the incoming administration to make good on its commitment to end cannabis prohibition, expunge records, and move the federal government away from the failures of the war on cannabis.
Voters today support cannabis reform by a wide margin — in red and blue states alike. The next AG should reflect that sentiment and guide us to better policy, rather than a vain and harmful attempt to rewind the clock.
Serious criminal justice reform will not be possible until we end the war on cannabis, and voters agree. Lawmakers who care about this issue should ask serious questions of the AG candidate. Here is MPP’s list of 10 cannabis questions we think the nominee for AG should answer before a vote is taken:
1. Would you restore the Cole memo, and how would you improve upon it?
2. How would you limit the use of DEA cannabis interdiction in light of the 36 states with cannabis regulatory systems?
3. What do you see as the relationship between cannabis and other drugs, if any? Does the ‘gateway theory’ have merit?
4. What percentage of federal resources should be devoted to the reduction in cannabis use versus a reduction in the use of opioids?
5. Is cannabis more harmful than alcohol? Should penalties for use be more harsh than those for alcohol?
6. Should cannabis be on the same schedule as heroin or meth? Should it be on the schedule at all?
7. Is marijuana more harmful than marijuana prohibition?
8. Has the drug war been a success or failure, and what if anything would you do differently?
9. Do you support the release of nonviolent cannabis offenders who are currently incarcerated and the expungement of nonviolent cannabis offenses from criminal histories?
10. Would electronic banking as provided for in the SAFE Banking Act help distinguish between state-legal marijuana industry actors and the illicit market?
We were encouraged to hear statements by President-elect Biden and Vice-President-elect Harris showing support for meaningful cannabis reform. Now is the time to measure just how serious those commitments are. Stay tuned as we hear who the administration puts forth.