• Sarah Gersten

Elizabeth Warren Unveils Legalization Plan

The following post should not be taken as an endorsement for or opposition to a political candidate, but rather an overview of where presidential candidates stand on cannabis justice reform.

Yesterday, Elizabeth “I’ve got a plan for that” Warren finally unveiled her full proposal for cannabis legalization. While Warren has long supported legalization and has a broad plan for criminal justice reform, including repairing the past harms of the War on Drugs, this new, detailed plan clarifies the specifics of what legalization under a Warren administration would look like. Although not as far-reaching as fellow progressive candidate Bernie Sanders’s legalization plan, Warren’s plan goes well beyond legalization, including tackling restorative justice and equity issues, as well as reinvesting in communities hit hardest by the War on Drugs.

Restorative Justice

Warren’s plan includes a broad proposal for addressing the disproportionate enforcement of drug laws in the US. Beyond legalization her plan would:

  • Expunge past marijuana convictions;

  • Protect immigrants who under the Trump administration risk deportation or could be barred from gaining citizenship due to cannabis related charges or participation in the industry;

  • Ensure protections for veterans; and

  • Support Tribal sovereignty and the right of indigenous peoples to create their own marijuana policies.

Additionally, Warren’s criminal justice plan includes an expansion of the presidential clemency power to release nonviolent drug offenders. By removing the clemency process from the Department of Justice and establishing a clemency board to make recommendations directly to the White House, Warren hopes to undue the federal clemency backlog by “direct[ing] the board to identify broad classes of potentially-deserving individuals for review, including … individuals who are jailed under outdated or discriminatory drug laws.”

Social Equity

Warren’s plan also includes policy proposals to address the disparity in ownership in the industry, stating: “We cannot allow affluent and predominantly white hedge-funders and capital investors to hoard the profits from the same behavior that led to the incarceration of generations of Black and Latino youth.” These proposals include:

  • Strengthening organized labor in the industry;

  • Investing in women- and minority-owned cannabis businesses;

  • Preventing corruption and preserving competition through things like anti-trust laws and federal oversight to prevent consolidation; and

  • Addressing collateral sanctions so that prior marijuana convictions will not prohibit people from entering the cannabis industry.

Finally, Warren briefly outlines a plan for investing in affected communities by investing federal and state revenue from the cannabis industry into communities that have been disproportionately impacted by enforcement of existing marijuana laws through the passage of the Marijuana Justice Act.

While not as detailed as Sanders’s plan, Warren’s plan is firmly rooted in the ideals of repairing the past harms of prohibition, and her record of consumer protection and corporate oversight works to create a solid plan for an inclusive and equitable industry.


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