President Elect Joe Biden has been making headlines with his diverse picks for his upcoming cabinet and hopes are high for a new administration. Around the cannabis industry, many are hopeful for an administration to keep their campaign promises of decriminalization and to keep an open mind to the possibilities of medical cannabis. For this to happen, Biden must continue to go against the status quo and select a Drug Czar that will work with the industry and stop fighting the War on Drugs.
For years, presidents have been appointing Drug Czars to lead the battle in the War on Drugs and all have been fighting a losing one. While this war has been waging on endlessly, the tides of public opinion have changed and 70% of states have legalized medical cannabis and a third of the population now lives in a state where cannabis has been legalized. We have seen opioid abuse go down in states where medical cannabis is legal. And this past election, Oregon went so far as to decriminalize all drug use. The country’s opinions on the War on Drugs is changing.
The title “Czar” has been awarded to political appointees to signal to the public that they are taking a problem seriously. For years, presidents have looked at drug use as a criminal issue and the only way to combat it was, to crack down and fight the war. However, now that the problem is being looked at as an antiquated way of thinking, many now consider drug abuse a health concern and want to educate and employ rehabilitation centers for the most afflicted. The new Drug Czar needs to take seriously the booming cannabis industry and begin setting up a successful sector at the federal level to ensure public safety and not to stifle growth.
The home of the Drug Czar, the Office of National Drug Control Policy, administers hundreds of millions in federal grant programs towards eradicating the War on Drugs, and continues to waste taxpayer’s dollars when all evidence to the contrary shows that the country wants another path. They need to take those funds and invest them back into communities for where the War on Drugs has plagued them.
The ONDCP should also use its vast resources to work with the states that have already legalized and understand what has worked and what has not. They need to begin building a framework for the inevitable industry that is coming. The federal government is going to need to understand how to tax it, set standards for safe products, and begin medical research programs where our country has sorely fallen behind. The Czar should embrace “stare decisis,” Latin for “let the precedent stand” and look to the states to continue innovative new experiments if they “seem” to work, are flourishing and IF they serve a greater good.
In a new administration that promises hope, the Drug Czar could be that beacon for the cannabis industry and show everyone how seriously the Biden administration is looking at the future of cannabis. It's time for Washington to finally see what the latest polls tell us, that 66% of Americans approve of adult use cannabis and over 90% approve of medical cannabis. If we want to avoid another vape crisis or make sure that minorities get a fair chance at starting a cannabis business or set up interstate commerce for one of the fastest growing industries in the country than the federal government needs to be a part of it and who better than a Czar.