Politico

Psaki: Biden unmoved on marijuana legalization despite Schumer legislation


President Joe Biden still opposes marijuana legalization, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday, putting him at odds with Democratic leadership on Capitol Hill as it advances legislation to end the federal prohibition on pot.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer unveiled draft legislation Wednesday that would legalize marijuana as well as expunge non-violent criminal records related to marijuana. Schumer’s proposal, cosponsored by Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) would allow states to decide whether or not to legalize the drug.

Asked about the majority leader’s proposal, Psaki told reporters at her Wednesday press briefing that Biden’s stance on marijuana legalization hasn’t changed. The president has previously supported marijuana decriminalization, but hasn’t gone so far as to support legalization.

“I have spoken in the past about the president’s views on marijuana,” Psaki told the White House press corps, adding, “nothing has changed. There’s no new endorsements of legislation to report today.”

Asked again about cannabis later in the briefing, Psaki said she hadn’t spoken with the president about this specific piece of legislation — but again reiterated that Biden’s position hasn’t changed.


The president has spoken about mass incarceration in the past, saying during his campaign that marijuana offenses shouldn’t land Americans in jail. But the White House also made headlines for firing staffers early in Biden’s term for marijuana use, earning the president criticism from marijuana legalization advocates.

Schumer called the cannabis legislation “one of the high priorities” for Democrats in an interview with NBC, saying the party has a “lot of top priorities” that it needs to move forward on. The New York senator has long promised a vote on marijuana reform, though holdouts in his own party might make it difficult for the bill to pass in the Senate. Asked if Democrats have the votes to get this done, Schumer said they’re working on it.

In the interview, Booker said there is an urgency to pass this legislation, citing Americans who are “seeing their lives destroyed and hurt” as a result of stringent marijuana laws.

Marijuana legalization varies across the country, with 18 states and Washington, D.C. legalizing the substance in the past decade. Though weed has been legalized in the nation’s capitol, it remains illegal at the federal level.

A 2021 survey from Pew Research Center showed that over 90 percent of U.S. adults think marijuana should be legal for medical and recreational use, or just for medical use, indicating growing bipartisan support for weed legalization in the country.

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