Biden’s Stance on Marijuana Has a Political Upside, Allies Say

On Labor Day in 2022, John Fetterman found himself in a room in Pittsburgh with President Biden.

Fetterman, a Democrat who was then the lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania and in the middle of his successful run for the U.S. Senate, had a simple message he wanted to share: Go big on legal weed.

And how did the president respond? “He was just, like, ‘Yeah, absolutely,’” Fetterman told me yesterday.

The Justice Department on Tuesday said it had recommended that federal restrictions on marijuana become a whole lot chiller. And while it is not clear that lobbying from Democrats like Fetterman has played any role, the move was the latest step by the Biden administration to liberalize the nation’s cannabis policy — something his allies believe comes with an obvious political upside when more than two-thirds of Americans support legalization of the drug.

“High reward, zero risk,” said the perpetually sweatshirted Fetterman, joking that he advises Biden only on matters of fashion and weed policy.

Biden, a suit-wearing president who is more statesman than stoner, has become something of the pot president. It could elevate his standing specifically with young voters, who support rescheduling, or reclassifying, marijuana as a less serious drug, as well as with supporters of changes to criminal justice laws.

One of the president’s allies just wishes he would talk about it more.

“He has pardoned people, he initiated this rescheduling, but he has not embraced it. It’s not too late,” said Representative Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, the 75-year-old Democrat who has been pushing for looser cannabis policy for half a century. “The public needs to know that this is the single most significant step that has been taken by the federal government in the more-than-50-year-old war on drugs.”

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