Just a few days ago Minnesota Representative Dean Phillips (D) announced that he is running against President Biden in the Democratic primary race. Although his chances are deemed by many political experts to be slim, he may help push Biden to be supportive of actions like legalizing marijuana.
Representative Phillips is now the just one of two candidates running against President Biden in the primary race, with former Democratic candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. announcing recently that he would be running as an independent. Author Marianne Williamson, who has been polling at around 9%, is the other candidate.
Although Phillips faces an uphill battle in a primary where the entire Democratic Party is putting their full weight behind Biden, Phillips’ introduction in the race has drawn some excitement from those seeking an alternative to Biden. Phillips is relatively new to Congress (2019), but he is well liked among his constituents and colleagues, and he has the sort of calm, calculated demeanor many want in a presidential candidate. As a Democrat who is moderate but with many progressive-leaning opinions, many also believe he could fair well in a general election battle.
Phillips’ introduction is also a welcome sign for supporters of reforming America’s marijuana policies.
Phillips supports federally legalizing marijuana, and he has supported and cosponsored multiple federal marijuana measures.
For example, he is a cosponsor for the SAFER Banking Act, a marijuana banking bill that recently passed the Senate Banking Committee. He supported a similar version of the measure in 2019 and 2021. He has also supported the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement Act, and the States Reform Act.
Phillips was also one of 31 bipartisan members of the US House of Representatives that recently sent a letter to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) urging them to consider fully descheduling marijuana.
Biden, on the other hand, is not supportive of federal marijuana legalization and has a history of opposing ending marijuana prohibition. That said, he has taken several monumental steps on this issue.
For example, the Department of Health recently sent a letter to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) officially requesting marijuana be reclassified as a Schedule III drug under the Controlled Substances Act, which would effectively legalize it for prescription use. The letter came in response to a request by President Biden last year for the government to research and consider rescheduling marijuana, and congressional researchers say it’s “likely” the DEA will actually take the action of rescheduling.
In addition to this, last year Biden signed the Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act into law, making it the first standalone piece of marijuana legislation to ever be signed into law by a U.S. president. The law was designed to facilitate research on marijuana and its potential health benefits by streamlining the application process for marijuana studies and removing many barriers for researchers. The measure also made it so that it’s not a violation of the Controlled Substances Act for a State-licensed physician to discuss the health benefits of medical marijuana.
Despite these positive steps forward, Phillips is clearly more supportive of the type of policies marijuana reform advocates support. If this helps garner Phillips some early support, some proponents of marijuana legalization are hoping it can push Biden towards being more openly supportive of ending prohibition.
“I don’t see Phillips getting the nomination but with his support of legalization and the SAFER Banking Act, I’m hoping, it could get Biden to speak more on these issues”, says Lisa Thompson, who has been working for the Smart & Safe Florida campaign, which was successful in collecting enough signatures to put their marijuana initiative to a vote in Florida next year.
“Biden has been behind on this issue for a long time”, continues Thompson. “If Phillips can make it a wedge issue, it could push Biden to promote actions like allowing marijuana banking and nationwide marijuana legalization.”