“if Biden really believes what he said and wants to do something about it, he has myriad options. Instead, he talks a good game on decriminalizing drugs while doing nothing of consequence.
For a first step, Biden could absolve prisoners serving time in federal facilities for using criminalized drugs. The president needn’t wait until his term is up to issue pardons and clemencies; why not start freeing victims of the U.S. war on drugs right now?
Biden could also encourage members of Congress and leaders in his party to introduce and support measures that could help end America’s failed, discriminatory, and disastrous drug war. These could include “moving marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), a category supposedly reserved for exceptionally dangerous drugs with no accepted medical use, to Schedule II, which indicates that a drug has a high abuse potential but can be used as a medicine, might facilitate research” notes Reason‘s Jacob Sullum. And if that change can’t make it past Congress, perhaps Biden could endorse “a less radical approach, embodied in a 2017 bill that attracted bipartisan support in the House, [that would] revise the CSA’s marijuana ban so that it does not apply to state-legal conduct.”
Biden could also bypass Congress on some aspects of ending the drug war. The American Civil Liberties Union urges the new president to “issue an executive order declaring an end to the war on drugs, directing federal prosecutors to no longer pursue drug cases, commuting the sentences of people serving time for drug-related cases, and pardoning people with past criminal convictions for drug-related offenses.””