As the 2024 presidential race looms on the horizon, a potential showdown is brewing between Democratic candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, two candidates vying for their respective parties’ nomination who are at odds over the issue of whether to decriminalize marijuana on the federal level.
RFK Jr., the son of the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy and a prominent environmental activist, has recently made waves with his pledge to decriminalize marijuana if elected president.
Citing studies that disprove the notion that cannabis legalization increases youth usage rates, Kennedy argues that it is time for the federal government to align its policies with the growing number of states that have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use.
DeSantis, on the other hand, takes a different stance. While he has supported certain forms of cannabis reform in the past, such as state protections and hemp laws, he firmly opposes the federal decriminalization of marijuana.
DeSantis recently made headlines when he stated that he would not support cannabis reform if elected, claiming that there are already too many people in the country using drugs.
The clash between Kennedy and DeSantis reflects a broader divide within the country regarding marijuana policy.
Currently, 23 states and Washington, D.C. have legalized recreational use for adults aged 21 and older, while 38 states have implemented medical marijuana programs.
The discrepancy between state and federal laws has created numerous challenges, including conflicting regulations on banking, employment, firearm ownership, and healthcare facilities.
Kennedy emphasizes the need to address these contradictions, arguing that federal decriminalization would help resolve these issues and provide much-needed clarity for individuals and businesses operating in the cannabis industry.
He believes that marijuana should be treated like alcohol or tobacco, regulated and taxed and that criminal penalties for possession and use should be eliminated.
DeSantis, on the other hand, takes a more cautious approach. While he says he supports states’ rights to determine their own cannabis policies, he draws the line at medical marijuana and expresses his distaste for the plant’s smell.
His mixed record on cannabis reform includes support for certain pieces of legislation but opposition to others, such as measures that would allow doctors at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to recommend medical cannabis to patients.
With the potential clash between Kennedy and DeSantis gaining attention, the question of federal marijuana decriminalization has taken center stage.
Voters across the country will be closely watching how these candidates articulate their positions and whether their stance on cannabis policy resonates with the electorate.
As the 2024 election cycle unfolds, the debate over federal marijuana decriminalization will likely intensify. Kennedy’s commitment to reform and DeSantis’s more cautious approach will continue to shape the discourse on drug policy in the United States.
Ultimately, the choice between these candidates may determine the direction of marijuana legislation at the federal level and have far-reaching consequences for the cannabis industry and individuals impacted by current drug laws.
President Joe Biden disappointed marijuana reformers and mass incarceration opponents on a number of fronts.
He has not moved to decriminalize or legalize marijuana at the federal level, despite the fact that a majority of Americans support these measures, and many states have already legalized marijuana for recreational or medical use.
Biden has continued to enforce the federal Controlled Substances Act, which classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, leading to the continued arrest and incarceration of people for marijuana-related offenses, a disproportionate number of whom are people of color.
Biden has also been criticized for creating the problem of mass incarceration, with his support for the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (VCCLEA) and the “three strikes” law, which imposed life sentences for people convicted of three felonies.
The VCCLEA created mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses that have been blamed for the disproportionate incarceration of people of color, particularly Black men.
He also supported the “100-to-1” crack cocaine sentencing disparity, which meant that people convicted of possessing crack cocaine received sentences that were 100 times longer than those for people convicted of possessing powder cocaine.
Although former President Donald Trump indicated during his 2016 campaign that he favored leaving the issue of legalization of marijuana to the states, his administration subsequently upheld the federal prohibition of cannabis, and his 2021 fiscal budget proposal included removing protections for state medical marijuana laws.
In 2018, the Trump administration rescinded the 2013 Cole Memorandum, an Obama-era Justice Department policy that generally directed federal prosecutors not to pursue marijuana prosecutions in states where marijuana is legal as a matter of state law.