Jen Psaki, the outgoing White House Press Secretary, recently stated that President Joe Biden “remains committed” to coming through on the pledge he made during his presidential campaign to release all federal cannabis prisoners. Psaki said that Biden feels that “no one should be in jail because of drug use” when answering a question about the president’s campaign promises during one of Psaki’s final press briefings.
Fox News correspondent Peter Doocy, who has had a contentious relationship with Psaki, asked her about the president’s commitment to cannabis prisoners on April 20, the universal stoner holiday.
“Well, the president continues to believe that no one should be in jail because of drug use,” Psaki answered. “I don’t have an update here. We are continuing to work with Congress.”
“But what I can say on marijuana is we’ve made some progress on our promises. For instance, the DEA just issued its first licenses to companies to cultivate marijuana for research purposes after years of delay during the prior administration. This is a key step in promoting research because it broadens the amount and quality of cannabis available for research purposes,” said Psaki.
“Additionally, the president’s continuing to review his clemency powers, which is something he also talked about on the campaign trail, and he certainly remains committed to taking action on.”
“So he remains committed to what he said during the campaign, that people charged with marijuana-related offenses, number one, everyone gets out, record expunged?” asked Doocy.
Psaki responded by saying that there were no available updates on exactly when President Biden would follow through on that campaign promise. Still, she said he was reviewing his clemency powers.
When Biden was a senator, he was known as a staunch Drug War champion, authoring or supporting some of the nation’s strictest drug policies of the ‘80s and ‘90s. Biden served as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and oversaw the Department of Justice. During that time, he was responsible for enacting several policies now considered draconian and severe, resulting in America being the largest jailer per capita of citizens and disproportionately people of color.
Biden said on the campaign trail in 2019: “I think we should decriminalize marijuana, period. And I think anyone who has a record should be let out of jail, their records expunged, and completely zeroed out.”
While going on record as opposing the federal legalization of cannabis, Biden has an opportunity to atone for some of the damage that the Drug War did by releasing Americans currently incarcerated for non-violent cannabis offenses. Let’s hope that does happen sooner rather than later and that he makes good on his promise.
Vivian McPeak is a Seattle based social justice activist, media personality, and writer. Vivian is the president of Seattle Events, a Non-Profit Organization, producer of the Seattle HEMPFEST®, the world’s largest annual cannabis policy reform rally. The recipient of the High Times Magazine 2012 Lester Grinspoon Lifetime Achievement Award and DOPE Magazine 2016 Emery Award for lifetime achievement, and in 2016 he was named one of the “50 Most Influential People” by Seattle Magazine. Vivian has appeared on numerous television and cable news networks, including FOX News, CNN, & NBC. McPeak is the host of Hempresent, a weekly radio podcast on Cannabis Radio with listeners on multiple continents.