As a politician and educator and now presidential candidate, Senator Elizabeth Warren, seems to have a plan for everything. She has now released her marijuana legalization plan.
During a speech in Denver on Feb. 23, 2020, Sen. Warren (D-Mass) vowed to make dramatic changes in federal drug policies and to protect state-legal marijuana markets by reducing federal funding to states that refuse to legalize cannabis. She also promised to keep “big tobacco” away from dominating the industry.
Warren tweeted out the plan with the caption, “I've got a plan to legalize marijuana, rebuild communities devastated by failed anti-marijuana policies, and ensure that those communities are equally able to participate in the budding cannabis industry. Here’s how we’ll do it.”
What is Elizabeth Warren's plan for cannabis legalization?
Well, it's a little complicated. Warren's plan would not force states to legalize cannabis. Instead she would reduce federal funding for law enforcement in states that decide not to legalize, if racial inequities in arrest rates for marijuana do not improve.
While this may sound vague, statistics regarding racially-discriminatory arrests are not.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, blacks are four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana offenses than whites, though both groups consume at approximately the same rate.
Unlike Bernie Sanders, Warren does not seek to legalize cannabis on day- one, but rather appoint people to lead the Department of Justice (DOJ), the DEA, the Food and Drug Administration and the Office of National Drug Control Policy who support marijuana legalization as well as the rest of her criminal justice agenda.
Elizabeth Warren would bring back the Cole Memo
Warren said she would immediately reinstate the Cole Memo, an Obama era policy that prevented the DOJ from using federal funds to crack down on state-legal cannabis markets. The Cole Memo was rescinded in early 2018 by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Elizabeth Warren has a history of supporting cannabis
Warren has previously co-sponsored numerous cannabis bills such as the STATES Act, which amends the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and keeps cannabis business owners, employees, and consumers in legal states from violating federal law.
She sponsored the Marijuana Justice Act, which would also remove cannabis from the CSA and withhold federal funding from states with discriminatory enforcement of marijuana criminalization.
Elizabeth Warren supports Social Equity
In addition, Warren’s plan includes $500 million in funds annually to restore “damage done to communities that have been unjustly targeted by marijuana enforcement.”
As part of her social justice approach to eventual legalization, Warren foresees enabling those who have been convicted of weed charges to be eligible to work in the legal marijuana industry.
What about states that do not have legal cannabis?
Though Warren’s plan does not seek to force states to legalize, she has criticized federal prohibition on numerous occasions and her plan makes it official.
“Even as the federal government has held fast to its outdated marijuana policy, states have led the charge in adopting thoughtful, evidenced-based marijuana policy,” her six-page plan reads.
“And what have we learned in the eight years since the first states legalized marijuana? Legalization works.”