Sen. Elizabeth Warren released a new plan for cannabis reform that is sure to excite those who have been clamoring for the federal government’s outdated policies to be updated.
The plan, titled, “A Just and Equitable Cannabis Industry,” has an introduction that reads, “It’s long past time to legalize marijuana and create a cannabis industry that’s open to all.” What this means is multi-faceted, touching on a complex variety of topics, including unionization, protecting Native American tribes’ authority to enact their own reform programs, and even lifting the ban on Washington, D.C.’s ability to implement recreational cannabis sales.
Throughout, Warren’s plan shows a focus on social justice, describing President Richard Nixon’s “War on Drugs” policy as “racist” and even noting that the term “marijuana” was racialized.
“[Legalization is] about undoing a century of racist policy that disproportionately targeted Black and Latinx communities,” states Warren in her plan. “It’s about rebuilding the communities that have suffered the most harm. And it’s about ensuring that everyone has access to the opportunities that the new cannabis market provides.”
In an interview with The Outlaw Report, Violet Cavendish, communications manager at the Marijuana Policy Project, described Warren’s cannabis reform agenda as the most comprehensive one to come out during the 2020 presidential race.
“Her plan to reform our nation’s failed marijuana policies is informed, practical, and it goes beyond ending prohibition,” says Cavendish. “Warren’s detailed plan makes it abundantly clear that she understands the many nuances of marijuana reform and is more than willing to do what it takes to create a just and equitable marijuana industry as president.”
The full plan is more than worth a read, but here are some quick facts on what you shouldn’t miss. For more information on the views and past legislation of the Democratic presidential candidates, read this guide from The Outlaw Report.
Deschedule cannabis ASAP and respect states’ rights
With the disproportionate enforcement of drug laws in mind, Warren has pledged to use her executive powers within her first 100 days in office to begin the process of descheduling cannabis.
To do so, she plans on appointing heads of the Food and Drug Administration, Office of National Drug Control Policy, Justice Department, and Drug Enforcement Administration. With this, her hope is to ensure that local cannabis laws are respected. This move should be no surprise coming from Warren; after all, she co-introduced the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act, which proposed to prevent Federal interference with states that had legalized cannabis.
Expunge convictions, strengthen unionization, and fund cannabis research
“Legalizing marijuana and erasing past convictions won’t fully end the War on Drugs or address its painful legacy,” Warren writes, “but it’s a needed step in the right direction.”
With this in mind, Warren promises to pass legislation like Sen. Kamala Harris’ Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which would legalize cannabis and expunge prior convictions.
Federal benefits, such as housing, will no longer be denied to those who use, possess, or have been previously convicted for cannabis.
Additionally, research institutions across the nation are limited in their ability to study cannabis due to it being categorized as a Schedule I drug. All “outdated” federal laws and policies that block federal research of cannabis will be stripped under Warren’s presidency. Federal funding will also increase.
For unions like the United Food and Commercial Workers, Warren will safeguard the ability for unions to secure contracts and assert their rights in the cannabis industry.
Protect immigrants, veterans, tribal nations, and the rights of D.C. residents
As part of Warren’s immigration plan, she promises to neither deport immigrants nor bar them from citizenship for having used cannabis or having been convicted of minor, non-violent crimes, such as cannabis possession. Her plan reports that 45,000 people were deported between the years 2003 and 2018 for possession.
Warren also plans to allow Veterans Affairs (VA) to be able to proactively engage in researching medical cannabis. Veterans who suffer from conditions like chronic pain or post-traumatic stress disorder should be able to pursue all evidence-based opportunities for treatment and response, according to the plan.
Under Warren’s presidency, tribal nations in the country will have the right to develop and enforce their own cannabis policies. Any “unnecessary” administrative barriers that impede economic growth will be removed.
Last week, Warren received a letter that was organized by four citizens of the Cherokee Nation with over 200 signatures. The letter expresses concerns for Warren’s past claims to American Indian identity. Warren has apologized in the past for making these claims.
“Whatever your intentions, your actions have normalized white people claiming to be Native, and perpetuated a dangerous misunderstanding of tribal sovereignty,” reads the letter.
Warren also writes in her plan that she will “respect” the nation’s capital. This is in regards to the federal ban on Washington, D.C.’s ability to create a tax-and-regulate system for cannabis. Warren will fight to lift the ban in order to encourage the District to develop a legal market.
Furthermore, Warren has promised support to any nation that wishes to legalize cannabis.
“As president, I will end the failed war on marijuana abroad which has failed to significantly curb violent effects of the drug trade and has not made us safer,” says Warren.
Invest in businesses and ensure access to banking
Those who wish to start cannabis-related businesses will be able to have access to the interstate banking system. If Warren gets her way, her administration will also investigate discrimination in cannabis-related capital lending.
Warren plans to specifically support women- and minority-owned cannabis businesses through a fund that would collect revenue from regulated and taxed cannabis businesses. High permitting and licensing fees will be mitigated as well in order to ensure entrepreneurs of color are not prevented from starting their own businesses. Collateral sanctions that prohibit people with drug convictions from entering cannabis farming will also be removed.
To top it all off, Warren’s plan to prevent corruption is to use anti-trust laws and federal oversight to prevent consolidation that may drive up prices.
“We’ll make sure Big Tobacco can’t muscle in on the fledgling marijuana industry,” writes Warren.
Photo via Maverick Pictures/Shutterstock