Time is ticking, and political commentators are starting to wonder about the president’s inaction on cannabis reform—an issue with high support among Democrats. And since Democrats are currently in control of the White House and Congress, it’s on them to push a bill to the finish line.
During a June 3 “Overtime” segment on YouTube, the Real Time with Bill Maher host read an audience-submitted question to his guest, former Attorney General Eric Holder, about why President Joe Biden hasn’t pushed for the federal legalization of pot. After all, decriminalization of cannabis at the federal level was one of President Biden’s promises on the election trail.
Maher—who denies alignment with any party—said that dealing with the issue would be “dealing with reality,” and it would also bring political benefit. But if Democrats continue to fail to legalize cannabis at the federal level, Maher thinks Republicans will take up the slack.
“Republicans are gonna steal the issue. I think eventually,” Maher told Holder. “I mean, someone like John Boehner works for a marijuana company now. I mean, it could be one of those freedom issues. And, of course, Republicans smoke lots of pot too.”
“Not enough,” Holder said to instant laughter in the audience. “They need to mellow out just a little more.”
Some Republicans have used cannabis as a freedom issue. Politico reported on leaders who are joining the fold, viewing cannabis “through the prism of states’ rights, personal freedom, job creation and tax revenue.”
In a survey, conducted by Pew Research Center from April 5-11, 2021, the majority—72%—of Democrats said cannabis should be legal for medical and recreational purposes versus 47% of Republicans. Only among “conservative” Republicans, the majority of people surveyed said they aren’t in favor of legalizing cannabis for both medical and recreational purposes. While it’s less popular among Republicans, there are some leaders launching their own bills such as Congresswoman Nancy Mace, with her States Reform Act.
Maher pointed out the recent push for social equity measures transforming the industry slowly, but it is an issue Republicans aren’t onboard with. It’s the social equity provisions that are one of the few dividing points when it comes to cannabis bills. On the other hand, leaders like Senator Cory Booker believe social equity provisions are critical for any cannabis reform bill.
“Now I understand the impetus to want to, like, for example, if you’re gonna have new businesses that are legal in the marijuana field, yeah, they probably should go to the people who suffered the most during the drug war,” Maher said. “Republicans, of course, are saying this is a deal-breaker.”
Maher acknowledged that leaders are not aligning with certain details on the issue, but didn’t exactly provide a full solution.
“What do you want, half a loaf? If they said okay, no equity, is it better to have the law passed or changed or is it better to hold out for equity?” Maher asked.
“It’s better to have the law changed,” Holder responded. “And as I said, deal with the societal reality that we have and, you know, and try to make it as equitable as you possibly can, but I wouldn’t want to stop the movement that I think makes sense for the sake of equity.”
Maher serves on the advisory board with NORML and is a longtime known advocate for cannabis, and is known for slamming religion and political correctness in general. Maher was in the same room as High Times this past May, when the political talk show host made an appearance at Woody Harrelson’s grand opening of The Woods in West Hollywood.