A GOP congressman is blasting President Joe Biden over the lack of marijuana reform that’s come out of his administration, calling him a “recalcitrant boomer” who is missing an opportunity to advance a popular policy change that he campaigned on.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) talked about the president’s record, as well as a recent study on cannabis as a potential substitute for prescription drugs, on an episode of his “Firebrand” podcast that was released on Friday.
With respect to the study—which determined that adult-use legalization in states is associated with decreased use of several prescription drugs—the congressman said it was “bad news for Big Pharma.” But it also underscores the need for reform at a level that the Biden administration has yet to facilitate, he argued.
“In Florida, we stand to benefit from streamlined research grants at large scale to learn more and help more people unlock potential. However, the conclusion of this study that recreational cannabis use is weaning people off of prescription drugs—it’s just hard to ignore,” he said. “Unfortunately, there’s this tumultuous road ahead, even with legitimate research and factual basis and evidence at hand. The cultural stigma hangover of the Boomer era weighs heavy.”
Gaetz, a controversial figure on Capitol Hill who is reportedly under investigation for sex trafficking, then played a clip of himself at a hearing with the acting administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), where he pressed the Trump-nominated official on the agency’s position on marijuana given the growing body of research demonstrating its medical efficacy.
“That was President Trump’s acting head of the DEA,” he said on the podcast episode. “And it was just shocking to me that the people who have impact and influence over drug policy seem to be like purposefully ignorant of some of this research—and particularly the study I’m highlighting today.”
The congressman also touted the fact that he was one of just three Republican members of the House who voted in favor of a Democratic-led bill to end federal cannabis prohibition and support social equity in the industry last month.
In contrast, Biden maintains an opposition to adult-use marijuana legalization, though he’s continued to allow states to enact their own policies and he did recently grant clemency to select federal prisoners who were convicted over cannabis.
Gaetz said that the “real issue here is Joe Biden’s betrayal on marijuana,” citing the president’s campaign pledge to decriminalize cannabis and expunge all federal records for non-violent cannabis offenses.
“Joe Biden, where are you at? The House has passed legislation. That’s one of your presidential demands, and it’s headed to a death in the Senate,” he said. “I’m here to remind you and [Vice President Kamala Harris]: you’re missing a critical moment for a policy accomplishment. Do what you said you would do and, by the stroke of the president’s pen, we could have substantial marijuana reform in this country.”
To that point, the Congressional Research Service did release a report last year outlining the president’s authority over marijuana policy, stating that Biden could unilaterally issue mass pardons and also take steps to direct reform administratively even in the absence of congressional action.
“Instead, unfortunately, Joe Biden is like a recalcitrant Boomer on marijuana policy,” Gaetz said.