Kamala Harris To Host White House Weed Policy Reform Summit With Fat Joe


Vice President Kamala Harris is hosting a White House meeting to discuss drug policy reform that will feature guests including hip hop artist Fat Joe and others who have benefitted from the cannabis pardons granted by the Biden administration. The Friday meeting will also include Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, a leading proponent of cannabis legalization in his state, and other advocates for ending the criminal prohibition of marijuana. 

In October 2022, President Joseph Biden issued an executive order pardoning thousands of people with federal convictions for marijuana possession, saying, “No one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana.” In December 2023, the president went further by expanding the pool of people eligible for a pardon for marijuana convictions under federal or Washington, D.C. law. 

“President Biden and I have been clear: We must continue to change our nation’s approach to marijuana and reform the criminal justice system,” the vice president said in a statement in December. As I have declared many times before, no one should be in prison simply for smoking weed. That is why we continue to call on Governors to join us in this long-overdue work.”

White House Meeting Features Pot Policy Reform Advocates

Friday’s meeting at the West Wing of the White House to discuss the Biden administration’s cannabis policy reforms will include guests such as Beshear and five-time Grammy award nominee Fat Joe, who is one of thousands of people to be pardoned by the president. 

“Friday’s engagement will build on the Vice President’s efforts to uplift the historic actions the Biden-Harris Administration has taken to ensure everyone has access to opportunity, including by making the criminal justice system more just. This will continue in the weeks and months to come,” a White House official said, according to a report from NBC News.

Another pardon recipient, cannabis activist Chris Goldstein, a regional coordinator with the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), will also attend. In 2014, he was convicted of a federal marijuana possession charge for smoking marijuana during a protest in an outdoor area of Independence Hall National Historic Park in Philadelphia. 

“These Presidential pardons are a powerful and meaningful action,” Goldstein said in a statement from NORML. “They carry a tremendous power of goodwill — not just to those of us who received them, but for the entire country. These pardons are seen by people everywhere as tangible signs of the White House taking action on marijuana policy.”

Goldstein said that he plans to use the time with Harris at Friday’s meeting to bring further awareness to the presidential pardon process. He also hopes to stress the need for further federal action on cannabis reform, including the descheduling of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act.

“Three of us will discuss the real-world impact of our federal marijuana convictions and the relief provided by these Presidential pardons,” said Goldstein. “Thousands of people are still eligible, and this event should help raise awareness for more people to apply.”

“We will help represent tens of millions of Americans who have been arrested for marijuana in nearly a century of prohibition,” he added.

Fat Joe / Shutterstock

Reform Advocates Call For More Than Words

The news of this week’s White House roundtable discussion on cannabis policy reform was welcomed by justice advocates and members of the cannabis industry. Sarah Gersten, executive director and general counsel at the Last Prisoner Project, a nonprofit working to secure the release of all cannabis prisoners, said that she hopes the meeting results in action from the president.

“Clearly, the administration understands that taking action to repair the harms of cannabis criminalization will help energize voters who overwhelmingly believe marijuana should be legal,” Gersten said in a statement on Wednesday. “But the general public also believes no one should be incarcerated for cannabis, and Biden has failed to keep that campaign promise. Biden could free the over 3,000 federal cannabis prisoners with the stroke of a pen. If he truly wants to tout his actions on cannabis reform, bolder action needs to be taken.”

Jeffrey M. Zucker, co-founder and president of Denver-based cannabis consultants firm Green Lion Partners, also called for the Biden administration to make meaningful progress on federal cannabis reform.

“From this meeting, I hope to see a shift toward comprehensive drug law reform that acknowledges the disproportionate impact of current policies on communities of color,” Zucker said in a statement to High Times. “Reforms prioritizing social justice, harm reduction and economic empowerment would reflect genuine progress.”



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