The Politics of the Marijuana Pardons

From a story on by Mike Allen headlined “Politics of pot”:

President Biden’s marijuana pardons are a small policy change to entice young voters — but provided an emotional new flashpoint for the final month of midterm campaigning, Axios’ Sophia Cai reports.

  • The surprise decision last week pardoned thousands of Americans convicted of “simple possession” of marijuana under federal law.

Why it matters: Biden’s announcement is the latest in a stream of small policy gifts to persuade the Democratic base that he’s keeping promises from the 2020 campaign trail.

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who’s running for U.S Senate, is taking a victory lap, calling the pardons a “BFD and a massive step towards justice.”

  • Fetterman had urged Biden to decriminalize marijuana during a Labor Day conversation in Pittsburgh.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, Fetterman’s Republican opponent, jumped at the chance to paint Fetterman as soft on crime.

  • Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf (D), a potential future presidential candidate, issued a “one-time, large-scale pardon” for people with “minor, non-violent marijuana convictions” on Thursday.

In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said yesterday he won’t follow Biden’s lead. Democratic gubernatorial nominee Beto O’Rourke promised to “legalize marijuana in Texas and expunge the records of those arrested for marijuana possession.”

  • In Massachusetts, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Maura Healey promised to “pardon state convictions for simple marijuana possession.” Healey’s GOP opponent, Geoff Diehl, said Biden is pandering for midterm votes.

📊 Between the lines: A record high 68% of Americans supported legalizing marijuana in a Gallup poll last year.

  • For Biden, the pardons are a chance to excite Gen Z and millennials, whose turnout levels could make a big difference for Dems next month’s midterms.

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