Vittert: Why now for Biden pot pardons?

On Balance with Leland Vittert

This April 6, 2018, file photo shows the leaves of a marijuana plant inside Ultra Health’s cultivation greenhouse in Bernalillo, N.M. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan, File)

(NewsNation) — In another October surprise, President Biden announced today sweeping executive orders to bypass Congress and all but legalize pot.

Four weeks till the midterms, what will the White House try next?

First, today’s news: a pardon for anybody convicted of “simple federal marijuana charges.” How you define simple is, well, up for debate.

“No one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana,” Biden said Thursday. “Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana.”

It fulfills a major campaign promise without the problems associated with actually changing the laws. It’s another example of presidents from both parties going around Congress. That’s in direct contradiction to how the framers believed things should work. Congress, the people’s representatives, is supposed to make the laws, and the executive branch enforces them.

The left didn’t like President Trump’s executive orders. The right won’t like this. That’s how life works.

Put that aside for a second.

Here is what the president’s order does:

  • Pardons all prior federal offenses of simple possession of marijuana
  • Urges governors to pardon state offenses
  • Asks health and human services and the attorney general to review if marijuana should be a Schedule I drug

For reference, other Schedule I drugs include:

  • Heroin
  • LSD
  • Ecstacy
  • Bath salts
  • Magic mushrooms

The timing is notable. The White House could have done things the old-fashioned way and pushed Congress to make pot legal at the federal level.

H.R.3617 doing just that passed the House, but crickets sounded so far in the Senate.

In fact, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer owes President Biden. Yet, even in today’s statement, there is zero from Mr. Biden about bringing the bill to a vote.

To be fair, the Constitution gives the president the unilateral right to pardon anybody, at anytime, for any reason. And no fair-minded person thinks anyone should be arrested, much less jailed for smoking a joint. All the more reason to change the laws. Because today’s move means nothing going forward, pot lovers convicted tomorrow through the end of time are out of luck; the laws are still on the books.

But let’s live in today. Gas prices are rising, and the White House knows what happened to their poll numbers this summer.

Then, you might remember President Biden unilaterally forgave some student loans. Another legally questionable, but politically expedient move.

We are paid to ask questions, so I have a couple.

Why now? Is there anything coming up that could explain this? And secondly. If marijuana pardons don’t work, if going around Congress to forgive student loans didn’t work, what will the White House try between now and Nov. 8?

The views expressed in this article are those of the author, and not of NewsNation.

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