By LeeWEpstein

May 6, 2020


Without going as far as his former Democratic opponents, former Vice President Joe Biden added a modest cannabis reform proposal to support his racial justice agenda.

The presumed Democratic presidential candidate for 2020 said he would “decriminalize cannabis use and automatically overturn all previous convictions for cannabis use” as part of a “Plan for Black America,” his campaign released Monday. He also talks about wider changes to criminal justice policy, including ending the disparity in sentences for crack cocaine, repealing mandatory minimum sentences, abolishing the death penalty, and placing those convicted of minor drug-related offenses in a health institution rather than in prison.

Today, too many people are incarcerated in the United States – and too many of them are African-American,” the plan says. To build safe and healthy communities, we need to rethink who we send to prison, how we treat prisoners, and how we help them get the health care, education, jobs, and housing they need to successfully reintegrate into society after their sentences. As president, Biden will strengthen America’s commitment to justice and reform our criminal justice system.

Proponents of drug policy reform have widely criticized Biden’s record as a senator, condemning his role in drafting and promoting punitive drug laws that contributed to mass incarceration. And his persistent opposition to legalization, a policy supported by the majority of his party’s voters, especially youth, has been a persistent source of frustration.

Biden’s plan calls for the decriminalization of cannabis and an end to incarceration for drug abuse, said Jason Ortiz, president of the Minority Cannabis Business Association. While this stands in stark contrast to the vice president’s record, it is a promising sign that more modern approaches to criminal justice are being discussed and taken seriously by his campaign.

True fairness should include the release of all cannabis prisoners, massive community investment, and a legal market for cannabis owned and operated primarily by people of color,” he added. I’m not convinced that Biden is there yet, but we must all continue to push him for the good of our communities.

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