Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D), a U.S. Senate candidate, plans to meet with President Joe Biden next week and press him on the “need to finally decriminalize marijuana,” a campaign spokesperson said on Monday.
Fetterman has long been an outspoken advocate for cannabis reform, and he’s pledged to push for the end of federal prohibition if he’s elected to the Senate. But even before the Election Day, he intends to take his advocacy directly to the president.
At next Monday’s Pittsburgh Labor Day Parade, the Democratic nominee “will be marching” alongside labor activists. Biden is currently scheduled to visit Pittsburgh to mark the holiday.
A spokesperson for the candidate’s campaign said that while Fetterman won’t be attending a separate Wilkes-Barre event where the president is scheduled to appear, he’s hoping to bring up cannabis policy at the march, which Biden has attended at least three times, most recently in 2018.
Fetterman walks Biden tightrope:
“John will not be at the Wilkes-Barre event with Biden, but he will be marching in the Labor Day parade in (PGH) next week, & he looks forward to talking to the President there about the need to finally decriminalize marijuana.” — Fetterman aide
— Jonathan Allen (@jonallendc) August 29, 2022
The lieutenant governor “looks forward to talking to the president there about the need to finally decriminalize marijuana,” the spokesperson said in a statement distributed to reporters.
Biden campaigned on a pledge to decriminalize marijuana, but he’s yet to take meaningful action to that end after more than a year in office.
He made his first public comments on the issue since taking office after being pressed last month on whether he plans to follow through on his campaign pledge to release people who are incarcerated over non-violent federal marijuana offenses.
The president reiterated at the time that he doesn’t believe people should be locked up over cannabis use, said that his administration is “working on” fulfilling that clemency promise and vaguely alluded to a crime bill that he suggested would address the issue.
Biden is continuing to “evaluate further uses of clemency powers,” the White House said late last month after being asked for clarification about the administration’s plans for relief for federal cannabis prisoners.
The president has received about a dozen letters from lawmakers, advocates, celebrities and people impacted by criminalization to do something about the people who remain behind federal bars over cannabis.
Six senators—including Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Cory Booker (D-NJ)—sent a letter to Biden last month to express their frustration over the administration’s “failure” to substantively address the harms of marijuana criminalization and use executive clemency authority to change course.
They said that the administration’s current stance is “harming thousands of Americans, slowing research, and depriving Americans of their ability to use marijuana for medical or other purposes.”
Back in Pennsylvania, current polling puts Fetterman ahead of his Republican opponent, the TV health personality Mehmet Oz, better known as Dr. Oz. Both Oz and the Republican National Committee have taken aim at the Democratic nominee over his cannabis and drug policy reform record, despite polling that shows most of Pennsylvania supports Fetterman’s positions on legalization and harm reduction.
The attacks also come despite the fact that Oz said in 2020 that marijuana is “one of the most underused tools in America” and said that the country should “completely change our policy on marijuana.”
For some reason, Oz, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R) and conservative proselytizer Ann Coulter have all taken particular issue with a cannabis-themed flag that Fetterman hung over his office balcony in Harrisburg as he pushed for reform in the Keystone State.
Fetterman hasn’t shied away from his drug policy reform platform. For example, he’s commented on his jealousy that New Jersey cannabis sales launched while Pennsylvania has yet to enact legalization and he’s persisted in making people aware of an expedited pardon process he’s championed for people with “bullshit” marijuana convictions.
The official, who serves as chair of the state Board of Pardons, has said that one of his key goals in his final year in office is to ensure that as many eligible people as possible submit applications to have the courts remove their cannabis records and restore opportunities to things like housing, student financial aid and employment through an expedited petition program.
After Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) endorsed marijuana legalization, Fetterman also led a statewide listening tour to hear what residents had to say about the policy proposal. He touted his role in that tour on his Senate campaign website.
He also talked about his work to “legalize weed for jobs, justice, veterans, farmers and revenue” in a fundraising email early this year.
Fetterman previously said that farmers in his state could grow better marijuana than people in New Jersey—and that was one reason why Pennsylvania should expeditiously reform its cannabis laws.
In 2020, he hosted a virtual forum where he got advice on how to effectively implement a cannabis system from the lieutenant governors of Illinois and Michigan, which have enacted legalization.