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Cannabis Advocates Hopeful After Biden Mentions Reform in State of the Union 

The United States Constitution requires the sitting President to present an annual State of the Union message to Congress. Typically, the State of the Union address occurs at the beginning of the calendar year, either in January or February. In the annual address, the President delivers remarks outlining the union’s health and topics vital to Congress and the American people. Most speeches focus on the economy, budget issues, recent achievements, presidential priorities, and future goals.

In a Presidential first, President Joe Biden dedicated a small portion of his speech to touting cannabis reform, promoting cannabis progress, and reaffirming his stance that he remains dedicated to changing American drug policies and helping the country move forward.

President Biden’s Historic State of the Union Speech

There are a few things that pundits have come to expect from the President’s State of the Union address. Many expect to hear political rhetoric, a rallying cry that outlines the current administration’s achievements and what they hope to accomplish in the days ahead. You can also count on talk about the economy, budgets, involvement in foreign conflicts, and other hot political topics. While the home team cheers and the opposing side jeers, there are not many surprises from this long-standing American tradition.

However, President Joe Biden shocked both cannabis advocates and detractors by taking time to address his stance on cannabis reform and commitment to shifting drug policy in America. For the first time in history, a sitting American President addressed cannabis reform during a significant, official, and primetime speech. Many see it as a bold move on President Biden’s part. Cannabis advocates are hopeful that the addition of marijuana policy to something as significant as the State of the Union address means that talk of reform may finally be moving in the right direction: that is, away from talk and towards more concrete action by the federal government.

During President Biden’s fiery and passionate State of the Union speech, he highlighted his commitment to giving communities the tools they need to crack down on crime and invest in community intervention, meaning more police, mental health workers, and community involvement. Then, his speech slightly detoured from what the masses were expecting. He pivoted by saying, in addition to taking executive action on police reform, he wanted to call on his Cabinet to review the federal classification of marijuana, saying, “No one should be jailed for using or possessing marijuana!”

What Makes This Speech Important?

President Joe Biden is no stranger to addressing federal issues surrounding cannabis reform. Twice, he has issued Presidential Proclamations granting pardons to those convicted of federal simple possession of marijuana offenses. His stance has been that simple marijuana possession should not upend the lives of Americans, preventing them from securing housing or employment opportunities. Although he has taken numerous opportunities to support marijuana reform, the State of the Union address represents something different.

Raising the issue during a crucial, historical, and primetime speech ups the ante and carries a significantly greater weight than a political campaign speech or routine news interview. The State of the Union speech goes back to the country’s founding, with Presidents like George Washington and John Adams delivering their remarks to Congress in person. President Truman’s State of the Union was the first to be televised. Today, President Biden joined the ranks of historic presidential speeches by being the first American president to address drug policy and marijuana reform.

President Biden’s speech also reflects the changing needs of the country he serves. Americans are living in an unprecedented time where the popularity of cannabis as a recreational and medicinal tool is skyrocketing. Consider the statistics. Support for marijuana legalization has dramatically increased over the past two decades, and today, nearly 48 percent of Americans live in a jurisdiction where recreational marijuana is legal. Nine in ten Americans support marijuana for medical or recreational use. Marijuana is turning into a hot-button topic, one that has flown under the radar of federal politicians for too long.

Why were the President’s remarks so crucial? It’s because it brings to the forefront a topic that many politicians at the federal level have attempted to avoid. Yes, the SAFE Banking Act and other marijuana legislation get tossed around in the House and Senate. Still, these measures typically fail to generate much media buzz outside of niche marijuana publications or a blip on a 24/7 television news cycle. By addressing reform in primetime, using such a traditional and well-respected forum, the President legitimizes the topic in a way no other setting can accomplish.

Perfect Timing?

President Biden’s marijuana remarks during his State of the Union address also come at a promising time. Currently, the Drug Enforcement Administration is considering whether to move forward with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommendation to reclassify marijuana, moving it from a Schedule I controlled substance down to a Schedule III substance. Although not precisely broad legalization, the move would be the most significant change to drug and marijuana policy at the federal level for decades.

The DEA has made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that it has the ultimate authority to reschedule marijuana. However, with mounting support for marijuana from the public and now the President reaffirming his stance on cannabis reform during a speech as vital as the State of the Union, there is more pressure than ever for the DEA to come to terms with shifting attitudes and values in America.

Cannabis businesses and advocates have applauded the President’s call for reform and hope his speech gets more people talking about moving the needle. The milestone speech may have another intended effect, drawing more liberal and young voters to the polls in November to vote for President Biden and Democratic party members. Republican blockades have stalled numerous marijuana reform measures in the House already. Democrats hope pot-talk energizes young and liberal voters to turn out this election year, helping them secure big wins and allowing them to focus on shifting drug policy in America.

Do you crave more cannabis content? Cannabutter Digest delivers what you need, including newsrecipes, and product reviews.


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