Pennsylvania Senate candidate John Fetterman called on President Joe Biden on Monday to change his stance on cannabis legalization and work to decriminalize the drug at the federal level, a highly popular political decision that has already been implemented by many states.
Fetterman, who currently serves as the state’s lieutenant governor, said he plans to march alongside Biden in the Pittsburgh Labor Day Parade on Sept. 5. the Democratic candidate told reporters that he hopes to speak to Biden at the parade about the “need to finally decriminalize marijuana.”
“It’s about time we finally decriminalized marijuana,” Fetterman said. “The president needs to use his executive authority to start deprogramming marijuana, I would love to see him do that before his visit to Pittsburgh. This is just common sense and Pennsylvanians overwhelmingly support the decriminalization of marijuana.”
A 1970 law classifies cannabis as a Schedule I drug, which has led to a massive number of arrests that disproportionately impact African Americans. There is no record of anyone dying from a cannabis overdose, though it is still considered federally more dangerous than cocaine and methamphetamine, which combined were linked to more than 50,000 American deaths last year.
Towards decriminalization and legalization is an overwhelmingly popular political decision among Americans. About six in 10 Americans support the legalization of cannabis, with more than 70% of Democrats and about half of Republicans in favor. According to FettermannBetween 65% and 70% of Pennsylvanians in 2019 approved of legalizing adult cannabis use, with near-unanimous support for descheduling the drug.
The White House did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment. Biden had campaigned on a commitment to decriminalize cannabis, though he has yet to take significant executive action.
Fetterman is facing Republican celebrity physician Mehmet Oz in a Senate race that has often involved mockery and personal attacks on health. The Democratic candidate and Pennsylvania native has painted his opponent as a disconnected elite from New Jersey who “don’t care about us.”
“I don’t want to hear any nonsense coming out of Dr. Oz’s campaign trying to conflate marijuana decriminalization with seriously harmful crimes. Are we supposed to believe that neither he nor any of his staff have used marijuana? said Fetterman, who has championed other progressive initiatives like unionizing workers, abortion rights and marriage equality.
“As Mayor of Braddock, my mission was to fight serious crime. I know firsthand what real crime is like. Marijuana does not qualify,” he continued. “It’s time to end the hypocrisy on this issue once and for all.”
The House passed a bill earlier this year that would decriminalize cannabis at the federal level and expunge cannabis-related criminal records. In July, Senate Democrats introduced a bill that would decriminalize cannabis at the federal level, allow states to create their own cannabis laws and establish grant programs to help people in communities disproportionately affected by drug laws to operate small cannabis businesses.