What Joe Biden Thinks About Legalising Cannabis

Joe Biden

Joe Biden administration has gone on record with their stance on cannabis in the US

Cannabis is once again on the agenda this election year. United States democrat presidential nominee, Joe Biden, is now showing support for cannabis decriminalisation. However, he has stopped short of supporting actual legalisation of the crop for adult use. This comes at a time when cannabis legalisation support is sky high, with almost two-thirds of Americans backing legalisation.

2019 PEW Research poll

2019 PEW Research poll indicates the vast majority of Americans now support cannabis legalisation. src

But the United States isn’t the only country discussing cannabis legalisation this election year - New Zealand is as well. On 17 October, New Zealand will become the first nation to put cannabis on the ballot during the general election, asking citizens if recreational cannabis should be legalised throughout the country. 

In this post, we’ll tell you what a Joe Biden presidential administration will mean for cannabis reform in the United States, and update you on New Zealand’s upcoming cannabis referendum.  

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris say decriminalise cannabis

During a joint interview of US presidential candidate Joe Biden and his vice presidential pick Senator Kamala Harris, criminal reform was addressed. Both candidates have had a record of law enforcement in the past, with Joe Biden being a key player in the 1996 crime bill that has resulted in the United State’s oversized prison population. Kamala Harris is a career prosecutor who was San Fransisco’s district attorney from 2004 to 2011. 

But with cannabis being a global topic, the question of legalisation is once again on the agenda. Given Senator Kamala Harris’ prosecutorial record which included calls for more police, the question of what a Biden administration would look like has surfaced. In response, Senator Harris stated that “policy that is going to be about decriminalizing marijuana.” 

This might sound like good news to Americans who support cannabis legalisation throughout the country. It might also sound like great news to the rest of the world, given the Unites States’ influence on the world stage. But there’s a huge difference between decriminlising cannabis and legalising it.  

Cannabis reform: Decriminalise vs legalise, what’s the difference?

Decriminalising cannabis is good, but it’s only a half step towards legalisation. All decriminalisation does is take away criminal punishment for cannabis possession. Legalisation, on the other hand, makes the drug legal - much like alcohol, for instance. 

Joe Biden has been consistent in his approach to drugs in general. He wants recreational cannabis decriminalised, medical cannabis legalised, and prior convictions expunged. This falls short for legal cannabis advocates like democrat Rep. Earl Blumenauer, who refers to Biden’s proposed decriminalisation as “meaningless.” 

New Zealand, on the other hand, is taking a bolder approach. The country has drafted a bill to legalise recreational cannabis, and has put the outcome in the hands of Kiwis.  

Final words - New Zealand will be the first country to put cannabis reform in voters’ hands

While other country’s might wait for US policy decisions on cannabis, New Zealand is taking the lead by becoming the first country to ask citizens whether cannabis should be legalised for recreational use. 

On 17 October, the cannabis referendum will hold alongside the general election. New Zealanders will be asked whether they support the Cannabis Legislation and Control Bill, and a majority Yes vote (51 percent or more) will push the bill forward in parliament. 

If the Cannabis Legislation and Control Bill is passed into law, it will become legal for those aged 20 years and above to:

  • Purchase 14 grams or less of cannabis per day from establishments that are licensed to sell
  • Grow up to 4 cannabis plants per household
  • Consume cannabis on private property or areas that are licensed for cannabis consumption
  • Share up to 14 grams of cannabis with others who are 20 years or over 

The bill aims for a health-based, harm reduction approach, with some unique restrictions that will enhance the quality of cannabis in the country: 

  • Initially, only flowers, plants and seeds will be legally sold
  • Later, concentrates and edibles might follow, after fulfilling additional requirements
  • Cannabis beverages will not be allowed, at least for now
  • Cannabis products can not contain more than 15% of THC
  • The higher the THC in the product, the higher the tax
  • Those caught with cannabis while under the age of 20 will be fined or given a health-based response or education (no criminal charges).
  • Those who sell to users under the age of 20 will face up to 4 years in jail
  • Those who sell to anyone without a license will face up to 2 years in jail
  • Advertising cannabis products is prohibited
  • Companies will have to choose between selling or growing cannabis - not both
  • Companies will be limited on how much cannabis they can get from the national stock 

Imports and exports of cannabis will be prohibited. 

But while the cannabis bill will be on the ballot on 17 October, it isn’t binding. That means even if New Zealanders vote Yes, cannabis might not be made legal. However, the Labour, NZ First, and the Green Party have all indicated their support for the bill if the majority of New Zealanders vote Yes on 17 October. But if the National party were to become the majority in parliament, cannabis reform might not happen even with a majority Yes vote in the upcoming referendum.