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2024 – Decryption | A smell of ‘grass’ about the presidential election

(New York) When it comes to drugs, Joe Biden is nothing like Barack Obama.

In the 1990s, Obama admitted in his memoirs: My father’s dreamsafter, when we were young, we had consumed ‘weed’ and ‘sometimes a line of coke, if we could afford it’.

In the same decade, Biden launched a crime bill in the Senate that specifically aimed to increase prison sentences for people convicted of drug possession.

In the White House, however, the 46e president continues to go beyond 44e to change his country’s policy on marijuana.

PHOTO MATT MCCLAIN, THE WASHINGTON POST ARCHIVES

Joe Biden, during the State of the Union address

Last March, for example, at the age of 81, he became the first president to mention “weed” during a State of the Union address. “No one should be jailed for using or possessing marijuana,” he said.

Last week, his administration took another historic step and began a process that will result in the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reclassifying marijuana as a narcotic under the Controlled Substances Act. What does this decision, described as “seismic” by the Politico website, mean?

Since 1970, marijuana has been classified under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, along with heroin, methamphetamine and LSD, drugs that have no widespread medical use in the United States and have a high risk of abuse. Following a Justice Department recommendation confirmed last Tuesday, cannabis will move to Schedule III, along with certain drugs codeine, anabolic steroids and ketamine, among other substances with moderate physical and psychological dependence potential. low.

This change will have scientific, economic and political consequences. It will encourage the proliferation of research and clinical trials to determine the medical benefits of cannabis, a prelude to the participation of pharmaceutical companies in the sale and distribution of medical marijuana in the 38 US states where it is legal.

The change will also give recreational cannabis businesses in the 24 states where it is legal access to tax deductions and banking services that are currently prohibited to them.

And it will help give the 2024 presidential campaign a “grass scent.”

Stop beating around the bush

“I can’t stress enough that they need to get on it as quickly as possible,” Kamala Harris said last March as he urged the Justice Department to start the process of reclassifying marijuana.

PHOTO JOHN RAOUX, ASSOCIATED PRESS ARCHIVE

Vice President of the United States Kamala Harris

The vice president did not mention the November election deadline, but she would not be the only Democrat who believed the reclassification could help her boss get closer to young people until then, many of whom are avoiding him.

One thing is certain: Americans are well ahead of Washington when it comes to marijuana. According to a Gallup poll, as many as 70% of them supported the legalization of this drug at the federal level in November 2023.

Hemp aside in Congress?

Last Wednesday, the day after the Justice Department’s decision, US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer took note of this reality by reintroducing a bill aimed at legalizing marijuana at the federal level.

It is unlikely that the text will pass both houses of Congress in November. But it could be an electoral argument for the Democrats.

“Cannabis reclassification is a necessary and long overdue step, but it is certainly not the end of the story,” Senator Schumer said in introducing the bill.

PHOTO VALERIE PLESCH, THE NEW YORK TIMES

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer during a press conference on ending federal cannabis prohibition Wednesday

It’s time for Congress to wake up and do its part by passing the cannabis reform that most Americans have long wanted. It’s been a long time since Congress caught up with public opinion and science.

Senate Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer

But can the marijuana issue really help Joe Biden? According to analysts, it already played a role in his victory over Donald Trump in Arizona in 2020, where a referendum on the legalization of the drug boosted youth participation.

The plant for November

In 2024, marijuana will be the subject of one of two referendums to be held in Florida, while the other will be on abortion. Donald Trump will have to make a decision as the state’s elector. It remains to be seen whether this will open.

In the meantime, a reminder: in the White House, the 45e The president himself set a precedent in 2018 by legalizing hemp and cannabidiol (CBD) derived from it, provided that the plant does not contain more than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol. (THC).

That same year, he also orchestrated a rollback by allowing Jeff Sessions, his first attorney general, to reverse a Barack Obama policy aimed at suspending the application of the Controlled Substances Act in states where marijuana is legal .

That said, Kamala Harris may be the one who best embodies the ambivalence, hypocrisy, or evolution of many Americans regarding marijuana.

“And I inhaled!” “, she joked during a radio interview in 2019, admitting that she had indeed smoked marijuana in college, unlike a certain Bill Clinton, who stated in 1992 that he had smoked marijuana on the Oxford campus “without inhaling ”.

The joke didn’t make everyone laugh. After all, as a prosecutor in San Francisco, Kamala Harris oversaw dozens of marijuana-related convictions.

In 2019, she spoke out in favor of legalizing marijuana at the federal level. If Joe Biden follows suit, he will have once again surpassed Barack Obama in this area.