The Potluck

Sen. Smith agrees with Warren, Sanders: Biden should take executive action on cannabis

By: - July 8, 2022 3:11 pm
U.S. Sen. Tina Smith

Sen. Tina Smith says she supports President Biden taking executive action to "address the injustices of our current federal cannabis policy." Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

A group of Democratic senators — including Minnesota’s Tina Smith  — want President Joe Biden to take executive action to decriminalize marijuana and exonerate Americans imprisoned for non-violent cannabis charges.

In a letter to Biden on Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and five other senators urged the president to use his power to deschedule cannabis as an illegal drug and issue mass pardons to people convicted of cannabis charges.

U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith were not signatories of the letter, but both say they support legalizing recreational marijuana and commuting sentences of non-violent offenders.

“I support the legalization of marijuana on the federal level and believe that states should have the right to determine the best approach to marijuana within their borders. We must also take steps to expunge prior non-violent convictions,” Klobuchar said in a statement.

Klobuchar ran for president in 2020. Before being elected to the Senate, she served as Hennepin County attorney for two terms, managing the state’s largest team of prosecuting attorneys.

Smith wants Biden to take unilateral action. “Sen. Smith believes that marijuana should be legalized, and that cannabis should be removed from the nation’s list of illegal controlled substances. She also supports expunging non-violent marijuana convictions,” Smith’s spokeswoman Lexi Byler said in a statement.

The push for Biden to take executive action comes as a bill to legalize marijuana faces long odds of passing the U.S. Senate. The Democratic-controlled House passed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act in April, which would end the federal ban on marijuana.

Warren’s letter, which was also signed by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, among others, blasted the U.S. Department of Justice for taking more than six months to respond to their request to begin declassifying cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug.

“The Administration’s failure to coordinate a timely review of its cannabis policy is harming thousands of Americans, slowing research, and depriving Americans of their ability to use marijuana for medical or other purposes,” the letter says.

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Max Nesterak
Max Nesterak

Max Nesterak is the deputy editor of the Reformer and reports on labor and housing. Most recently he was an associate producer for Minnesota Public Radio after a stint at NPR. He also co-founded the Behavioral Scientist and was a Fulbright Scholar to Berlin, Germany.