Cannabis under Biden

Stephen Andrews
24 Jan 2022

After serving a year in the Oval Office, President Joe Biden has not quite convinced Americans he will effectuate campaign pledges made on federal marijuana legalization. The president appears to be out of step with his party on cannabis reform. And he comes from an age cohort that has traditionally been against the use of the plant.

A January survey conducted by YouGov and The Economist asked Americans to rate the president's performance on six campaign promises, including his pledge to decriminalize marijuana, during his first year in office. Poll correspondents were also asked how much progress they think the president will make throughout 2022. 

More than half of the participants, or 54% to be exact, said they felt the president did little or nothing at all when it came to decriminalization of cannabis; 23 percent said he made some or a lot of progress on this matter, and another 23% answered with they didn't know. 

Of the six issues that correspondents gauged Biden's performance in the poll, only one - securing bipartisan cooperation in Congress for economic relief - received lower scores than for cannabis reform

Respondents felt the president made somewhat more significant progress on matters such as loan forgiveness, clean energy infrastructure, minimum wage, and the covid-19 pandemic response. 

Democrats were more likely to rate Biden as doing a good job on any of the six pledges. However, even within the Democrat cohort, 42% said that he'd made little to no progress on the federal legalization of cannabis. Among Republicans, this percentage rises to 73% who believe the president has done little to advance decriminalization. 

Asked whether the president will make more advances to the reform in his second year of term, correspondents do not appear optimistic of any high outcome. 

Correspondents were asked separately to bid what will happen in the next 12 months, and 58% answered they expect president Biden will not make a significant advance on decriminalization plans. Twenty-six percent said they are uncertain what to anticipate, and only 16 percent expressed confidence that he will make more progress on decriminalization. 

Cannabis decriminalization was on the list of promises in Biden's campaign for the presidency. As the president assumed office, he stated his administration would aim to introduce cannabis regulation and seek expungements for people previously convicted on cannabis-related charges.

However, public perception is that individual members of the Democratic Party are more vocal, and president Biden is unsynced with his party on cannabis reform.

Some commentators believe part of the reason why the president is hesitant on cannabis is, simply, he is a member of the Silent Generation or people born in the period between 1928 and 1945. The president comes from an age cohort that's largely remained the least supportive major demographic group on cannabis reform. 

While approval within the Silent Generation has timidly grown over the last few decades, an April 2021 Pew poll reveals only 32% of Americans aged 75 and above support introducing laws on recreational marijuana. Almost every other age cohort under 75 has a majority that favors legalization. 

Question remains: Will president Biden have a change of heart and become among the thirty-two-something percent of his generation and a vast majority of younger fellow Americans that would like to see cannabis reform happen?

Stephen Andrews