Former Vice President Joe Biden was deemed the winner of the presidential election on Saturday following news that he had prevailed in Pennsylvania and Nevada, carrying his campaign beyond the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency. Biden’s success makes Donald Trump the first incumbent president to fail to win reelection in nearly 30 years.
“The people of this nation have spoken. They have delivered us a clear victory, a convincing victory, a victory for ‘we the people.’ We won with the most votes ever cast in the history of our nation,” Biden said at an appearance in Delaware on Saturday evening, referring to the more than 74 million votes he had earned at that point in time.
Cannabis Reform Promised During Campaign
Biden’s victory is historically significant in that his Democratic running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, has become the first woman and the first person of color to be elected the nation’s vice president. Although both candidates on this year’s Democratic ticket have expressed a reluctance to support cannabis legalization in the past, Harris committed the incoming administration to reform during last month’s vice presidential debate.
“We will decriminalize marijuana and we will expunge the records of those who have been convicted of marijuana,” she pledged.
Medical cannabis advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA) released a statement on Saturday expressing support for the president-elect’s evolving view on reforming the nation’s marijuana laws.
“Incoming President Biden’s campaign released their approach to federal cannabis policy in July of this year, recommending cannabis decriminalization, expungement of past cannabis criminal convictions, rescheduling cannabis to a lower schedule than Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), and continuing to let states set their own policies on adult-use cannabis,” the group wrote in an email to supporters.
ASA also noted that Harris has been a vocal and active supporter of cannabis law reform since being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2016.
“Meanwhile the incoming Vice President is a sponsor of the MORE Act (S 2227), legislation that would remove cannabis from the CSA entirely, and impose a 5% tax rate on cannabis purchases to fund cannabis conviction expungements and cannabis industry job training programs,” the statement from ASA continued. “While it may not be perfect, the Biden-Harris ticket represents the most public support for some form of federal cannabis policy reform that we have ever seen from an incoming administration.”
In addition to her support for the MORE Act, in 2018 Harris signed on as a co-sponsor of the Marijuana Justice Act from Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey. The following year she restated her support for cannabis reform in an op-ed for CNN, noting the racial disparity prevalent in the enforcement of the nation’s drug laws.
“The fact is, marijuana laws have not been enforced in the same way for all people. Data show that a person of color is much more likely than a white person to be arrested for marijuana possession, despite evidence that Americans use marijuana at nearly the same rate, regardless of race,” Harris wrote.
“As public opinion of marijuana shifts toward legalization, it’s time we do the smart thing—the right thing—and ensure any marijuana reform legislation we put on the table adequately addresses the harm caused by the failed drug policies of the past,” she continued.
Will Cannabis Reform Succeed?
Just how much cannabis reform may be accomplished during a Biden-Harris administration will be influenced by which political party controls the Senate, which could be decided by runoff elections for Georgia’s two seats in the body likely to be held early next year. Comedian Ben Gleib, who like Biden and Harris campaigned for the Democratic Party’s nomination for president, expressed relief and joy at the results from Tuesday’s election while noting there is still work to be done.
“This is one of the great moments in American history,” Gleib said in a message to High Times on Saturday. “Great moments often come at the end of dark times. And this is no different. There is a lot of reversal of progress that must now be redone. But at least we have a green light to do it. And today we celebrate!”