Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) released details of a comprehensive plan for federal marijuana reform, which includes extensive restorative justice and social equity provisions.
Fresh from her strong showing at the Nevada primary debate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, she published the “Just and Equitable Cannabis Industry” plan on her website. While the thrust of what she says is not especially new, she makes her policy intentions and strategy crystal clear.
Sen. Warren opens her plan by acknowledging the origins of US cannabis prohibition more than a hundred years ago when anti-marijuana laws were first introduced to use against Mexican immigrants. The term ‘marijuana’ was adopted derogatorily so as to associate the plant with people of Mexican origin. Nixon escalated the ‘War on Drugs’ in the 1960s and this helped create the conditions for the mass incarceration crisis ravaging the US today.
“For four decades, we’ve subscribed to a ‘War on Drugs’ theory of crime, which has criminalized addiction, ripped apart families — and failed to curb drug use,” the plan reads. “Legalizing marijuana and erasing past convictions won’t fully end the War on Drugs or address its painful legacy, but it’s a needed step in the right direction.”
With this shameful history, Warren believes true federal marijuana reform isn’t possible without recognizing the damage and suffering prohibition has caused. This is why Warren calls for a two-prong strategy towards federal cannabis reform. First, she says we need to “address the disproportionate enforcement of our drug laws.” Second, she says we need to “prioritize opportunities in the cannabis industry for communities of color and others who were harmed by the failed policies of the past.”
Regarding federal cannabis legalization, Warren says she would first encourage Congress to pass the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment Expungement (MORE) Act, or similar legislation. If Congress proves unwilling within 100 days of her taking office, then Warren would sign an executive order to end the federal prohibition of cannabis. She would also appoint pro-marijuana reform personnel to head up the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Other noteworthy proposals include ensuring immigrants are not at risk by working in the state-legal cannabis industry, expanding veteran access to medical marijuana, and taking steps to ensure the legal cannabis market is not monopolized by big corporations. What’s more, Warren pledges to lift a de facto retail marijuana sales ban imposed on Washington, D.C., to encourage unionization among marijuana industry workers and to empower Indian tribes to pursue their own cannabis reform programs.
The level of detail Warren and her staffers provide in the plan shows she’s not just playing to the crowd when she calls for marijuana reform. She gives as much, if not more, consideration to ensuring expungement of marijuana records and providing economic opportunities in the cannabis industry to those most disadvantaged by prohibition as she does to mapping out a route to federal cannabis legalization.
Most of the candidates for the 2020 Democratic nomination for the presidency are in favour of federal marijuana legalization with strong social justice and equity provisions, but none have provided as comprehensive a plan on how to achieve this. Only former Vice President Joe Biden and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg remain opposed to ending marijuana prohibition.
You can read in full what US cannabis policy would look like under a Sen. Warren presidency on her website.