Here is everything wrong with Biden’s “forced rehab” plan for drug reform

Although the latest talks regarding cannabis legislation have been slightly more hopeful, it seems pretty obvious that President Joe Biden isn’t a diehard supporter of legalizing the plant entirely.

Back in the 1980s, Biden was actually very committed to the war on drugs, and cannabis in particular, helping draft numerous pieces of legislation that would keep low-level, non-violent drug offenders incarcerated for years to come. As of 2010, his opinions hadn’t changed much and he can be quoted saying, “There’s a difference between sending someone to jail for a few ounces [of marijuana] and legalizing. The punishment should fit the crime. But I think legalization is a mistake. I still believe [marijuana] is a gateway drug.”

Fast forward another decade and Joe Biden is the 46th president of the United States, during a time when cannabis legalization is an incredibly polarizing topic on many fronts: economic, social, and health institutions all have a major stake in the industry. At the very least it seems Biden has accepted that cannabis legalization is inevitable, and even mentioned that he thinks “it is at the point where it has to be, basically, legalized.”

However, he maintains his stance in favor of decriminalization over full legalization. But as we already know from watching the many states that have tried it already, decriminalization is a completely pointless step in between prohibition and legalization that allows for too much “interpretation” of the law.

For example, in a decriminalized state, a police officer can take your cannabis, fine you, and send you to court where your case will end up getting thrown out if it meets the criteria of a legal decriminalized amount. So, you’re out the money you spent on flower that remains confiscated, the city doesn’t get any money from your fines because they’re tossed out in court, and the entire ordeal is a mega waste of time for everyone involved.

Regardless, this is what Biden supports. And not only does put him at odds with most US citizens who have been wanting cannabis legalization for years, but it pits him against the majority of his own political party. This year, with Democrats in control of the Senate, leadership just promised to pursue comprehensive cannabis reform legislation within the first term year. To make good on this promise, Joe Biden proposed a plan for mandatory rehabilitation instead of jail/prison time for non-violent drug offenders. The idea might sound good on paper, but it is 100% misguided, and let me tell you why.

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The mandatory rehab proposition

Cannabis has been illegal in the US for the better part of the last century, and as a result, thousands of people have been unjustly incarcerated for completely non-violent offences, and it continues to this day. This puts even more weight on the importance of passing comprehensive cannabis reform legislation.

New laws couldn’t come soon enough, but with any kind of significant legal changes in a country with millions of people, there will undoubtedly be some kinks to work out in the beginning. Many details go into the making of a successful cannabis market – such as social equity, interstate commerce, at-home cultivation, racial justice, business zoning and so forth.

Another important issue is legislating the newly legal product itself. It’s “legal”, yes, but for who? And what amounts are legal? And who is allowed to sell it, and how much? Where can it be grown and where can products be manufactured? The list goes on. Of utmost importance though, is how to deal with people who don’t follow the established guidelines.

According to President Biden, “nobody convicted of a drug crime should go to prison, they should go to mandatory rehabilitation,” he emphasized at a campaign event in Kenosha, Wisconsin late last year. “Instead of building more prisons… we [should] build rehabilitation centers.”

On the surface, it appears like a logical option instead of sending someone to prison. But it begs the question, if court-ordered rehab is mandatory, what happens if the person doesn’t complete the program? Or what if they don’t show up at all? Most likely, they will go to prison. So while it seems like a reasonable way for people to possibly avoid jail, it’s likely that a large number of people will still end up serving time, often based on arbitrary and unrealistic standards that patients are required to meet before they can “graduate” from their treatment programs.

As a matter of fact, a report published in 2017 by the group Physicians for Human Rights found that drug courts and rehab programs “regularly set participants up for failure.” The report went on to say that “Drug courts in the United States routinely fail to provide adequate, medically-sound treatment for substance use disorders, with treatment plans that are at times designed and facilitated by individuals with little to no medical training… Few communities have adequate treatment facilities, insurance plans often won’t finance effective treatment programs, and the criminal justice objectives of drug courts often overrule the medical needs of the patient in ways that threaten the rights and health of participants.”

Skewed data and shady practices at rehabs nationwide

While some drug court advocates claim the programs are a success, the actual data presented is a bit warped – starting with the fact that many of them are funded by privately-run, for-profit facilities that obviously have a vested interest in getting more patients, and subsequently, more funding. Additionally, many of the studies are basing the effectiveness of rehab programs by comparing them to prisons. So by those standards, it’s no surprise that people in rehab facilities have slightly better outcomes than those locked away in prison.

It’s also not unheard of for drug court judges to engage in the same discriminatory practices we see in our regular justice system. Knowing the programs will be evaluated based on a recovery-to-recidivism rate, they often choose enrollees that they believe will be most likely to complete the program successfully; completely glossing over the marginalized groups of people who may actually benefit most from a legitimate treatment program.

And that leads us to another issue with rehab facilities, are they legit? So many programs have been faced lawsuits for unethical, unsafe practices, and outright abuse.  Take the notorious treatment program from the 1980s known as Straight, Inc. They demonized casual cannabis use and urge parents to send children who have tried it to their facilities.

Upon investigation, it was revealed that minors in their program were “routinely subjected to unusual punishment, infliction of pain, humiliation, intimidation, ridicule, coercion, threats, mental abuse…and interference with daily living functions such as eating, sleeping and toileting.” Needless to say, the facilities were all eventually shut down, but many more exist and continue to abuse their patients, causing more problems and lifelong issues than they will ever fix.

The founders of Straight, Inc., Mel and Betty Sembler, took the vast fortune they amassed off the pain of struggling youth to start their own organization – The Drug Free America Foundation. Using their foundation, they funded numerous anti-cannabis campaigns and currently continue to remain major fundraisers for the republican party. Overall, Straight, Inc. is the perfect example of how a rehab facility (or the owners) can get rich for doing absolutely nothing, then use that money in a completely self-serving way. For them, keeping cannabis illegal wasn’t about helping adolescents or bettering the community, it was about lining their pockets and getting as wealthy as possible.

Overcrowding at already congested facilities

As of now, Biden administration plans for forced rehabilitation aren’t concrete yet, but it’s already a common practice in many states where cannabis is still illegal, mainly in the Southern US. There is an obvious problem with forcing people into rehab when they don’t need it: that leaves less room for the people who actually do.

This country is already in the grips of a national opioid crisis, and frighteningly, the number of overdose-related deaths has increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to research published this month by the American Medical Association, “In addition to the ongoing challenges presented by the COVID-19 global pandemic, the nation’s opioid epidemic has grown into a much more complicated and deadly drug overdose epidemic … More than 40 states have reported increases in opioid-related mortality as well as ongoing concerns for those with a mental illness or substance use disorder.”

2020 saw over 81,000 overdoes deaths, compared to just under 71,000 the previous year. People are seeking help and trying to get placed into appropriate rehab facilities, but there just isn’t room for many of them. In most states, rehab wait lists are up 18 months long with hundreds, if not thousands, of people desperately waiting for treatment. Statistics found the most people drop off the list after about 2 weeks.

The most recent data available from the Department of Health and Human Services, states that more than 50% of all cannabis users in treatment were sent there by the courts or the criminal justice system. Less than 20% checked in voluntarily.

Final thoughts

According to numerous studies over the last decade gauging the addictive qualities of various substances, cannabis rates lower than alcohol, tobacco, and even caffeine. That’s not to say you can’t become addicted to cannabis, because you totally can (and before you bite my head off, I’ve met people who would spend their rent and grocery money on pot, so that signifies a problem).

For some people, therapy and rehab could be beneficial. But forcing someone with no addiction problems to choose between jail and rehab is completely illogical and not at all in line with “comprehensive” drug reform; and for Biden to even consider this as a possibility for cannabis users, is wrong as can be.

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Thursday, April 23, 2020 Headlines | Marijuana Today Daily News

Marijuana Today Daily Headlines
Thursday, April 23, 2020 | Curated by host Shea Gunther

// Hemp Industry Secures Federal Coronavirus Relief For Farmers In Senate-Passed Bill (Marijuana Moment)

// Arkansas Patients Bought Over $63 Million of Medical Pot in Less Than a Year (Merry Jane)

// The coronavirus shutdown got her furloughed from her restaurant job. She landed at a marijuana company. (Chicago Tribune)


These headlines are brought to you by Curaleaf, one of the leading vertically-integrated cannabis operators in the U.S. With legal medical marijuana dispensaries, cultivation sites, and processing facilities all over the United States, Curaleaf has served more than 165,000 medical cannabis patients and looks forward to helping many more long into the future. Swing over to Curaleaf.com to learn more about this very cool company!


// Coping with COVID-19: Adults turn to alcohol marijuana (University of Michigan News)

// Survey: Pot Is Safer Than Booze, But Avoided Due To Social Stigma (Benzinga)

// Easyriders Magazine Seals $30 Million Deal to Sell Bud to Bikers (Merry Jane)

// Senators Want Marijuana Businesses To Qualify For Federal Coronavirus Relief Programs (Marijuana Moment)

// California Psilocybin Mushroom Legalization Campaign Ends After Signature Deadline Passes (Marijuana Moment)

// New DC Poll Shows Support For Mushroom Decriminalization (Green Market Report)

// Marijuana lobbyists focus on next big coronavirus-aid package after doling out $5 million-plus in 2019 (Marijuana Business Daily)


Check out our other projects:Marijuana Today— Our flagship title, a weekly podcast examining the world of marijuana business and activism with some of the smartest people in the industry and movement. • Marijuana Media Connect— A service that connects industry insiders in the legal marijuana industry with journalists, bloggers, and writers in need of expert sources for their stories.

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Photo: Oregon State University/Flickr

Thursday, April 23, 2020 Headlines | Marijuana Today Daily News

Marijuana Today Daily Headlines
Thursday, April 23, 2020 | Curated by host Shea Gunther

// Hemp Industry Secures Federal Coronavirus Relief For Farmers In Senate-Passed Bill (Marijuana Moment)

// Arkansas Patients Bought Over $63 Million of Medical Pot in Less Than a Year (Merry Jane)

// The coronavirus shutdown got her furloughed from her restaurant job. She landed at a marijuana company. (Chicago Tribune)


These headlines are brought to you by Curaleaf, one of the leading vertically-integrated cannabis operators in the U.S. With legal medical marijuana dispensaries, cultivation sites, and processing facilities all over the United States, Curaleaf has served more than 165,000 medical cannabis patients and looks forward to helping many more long into the future. Swing over to Curaleaf.com to learn more about this very cool company!


// Coping with COVID-19: Adults turn to alcohol marijuana (University of Michigan News)

// Survey: Pot Is Safer Than Booze, But Avoided Due To Social Stigma (Benzinga)

// Easyriders Magazine Seals $30 Million Deal to Sell Bud to Bikers (Merry Jane)

// Senators Want Marijuana Businesses To Qualify For Federal Coronavirus Relief Programs (Marijuana Moment)

// California Psilocybin Mushroom Legalization Campaign Ends After Signature Deadline Passes (Marijuana Moment)

// New DC Poll Shows Support For Mushroom Decriminalization (Green Market Report)

// Marijuana lobbyists focus on next big coronavirus-aid package after doling out $5 million-plus in 2019 (Marijuana Business Daily)


Check out our other projects:Marijuana Today— Our flagship title, a weekly podcast examining the world of marijuana business and activism with some of the smartest people in the industry and movement. • Marijuana Media Connect— A service that connects industry insiders in the legal marijuana industry with journalists, bloggers, and writers in need of expert sources for their stories.

Love these headlines? Love our podcast? Support our work with a financial contribution and become a patron.

Photo: Oregon State University/Flickr

Friday, October 25, 2019 Headlines | Marijuana Today Daily News

Marijuana Today Daily Headlines
Friday, October 25, 2019 | Curated by host Shea Gunther

// Bernie Sanders Plan Pledges Immediate Marijuana Descheduling Through Executive Action (Marijuana Moment)

// Hexo slashes workforce by 200 amid lower marijuana revenue expectations (Marijuana Business Daily)

// Green Growth Brands loses $64 million amid marijuana dispensary delays (Marijuana Business Daily)


These headlines are brought to you by Curaleaf, one of the leading vertically-integrated cannabis operators in the U.S. With legal medical marijuana dispensaries, cultivation sites, and processing facilities all over the United States, Curaleaf has served more than 165,000 medical cannabis patients and looks forward to helping many more long into the future. Swing over to Curaleaf.com to learn more about this very cool company!


// New data reveals top medical conditions for which cannabis is reimbursed in Germany (Marijuana Business Daily)

// LA dispensary crime reports doubled since 2010, fueled by unlicensed stores (Leafly)

// Out-of-state hemp will soon return to Maine CBD market (Central Maine)

// Marijuana smuggling charges to be dropped against ex-Vireo employees (Marijuana Business Daily)

// Cannabis Commission Seeks to Improve Social Equity Program amid Complaints (NBC Los Angeles)

// Chuck Schumer Urges FDA To Quickly Issue CBD Rules (Marijuana Moment)

// Why are colleges expelling students for taking legal medicine? (Leafly (AP))


Check out our other projects:
Marijuana Today— Our flagship title, a weekly podcast examining the world of marijuana business and activism with some of the smartest people in the industry and movement.
Marijuana Media Connect— A service that connects industry insiders in the legal marijuana industry with journalists, bloggers, and writers in need of expert sources for their stories.

Love these headlines? Love our podcast? Support our work with a financial contribution and become a patron.

Photo: Truthout/Flickr

Tuesday, July 23, 2019 Headlines | Marijuana Today Daily News

Marijuana Today Daily Headlines
Tuesday, July 23, 2019 | Curated by host Shea Gunther

// Top Congressional Chairman And Presidential Candidate File Marijuana Legalization Bills (Forbes)

// Mark Kleiman, who changed the way we think about crime and drugs, has died at 68 (Vox)

// Leading Legalization Group Unveils Report On Marijuana Policy Wins In 2019 So Far (Marijuana Moment)


Today’s headlines are brought to you by our friends over at Eaze.com, California’s top one stop website for legal marijuana delivery. If you live in the golden state, swing over to Eaze.com to see if they are active in your area. With deliveries taking place in less than an hour, it’s never been easier to get legal California marijuana delivery. And of course, if you don’t live where Eaze delivers, you can still benefit from all the useful bits of industry insight and analysis they’ve developed using their properly aggregate and anonymized sales data stream.


// Miami Cops Can No Longer Use Just ‘Weed Odor’ as Excuse to Search Cars (Merry Jane)

// Marijuana Legalization More Popular Than Free College And $15 Minimum Wage, Poll Finds (Marijuana Moment)

// California Police Confiscate 47 Tons of Weed, Bust Hash Lab in Black Market Raid (Merry Jane)

// Dixie CEO Chuck Smith Says He Expects To Be In 8 States Very Soon (Green Market Report)

// California legislative update: Several key cannabis bills still hang in balance (Marijuana Business Daily)

// Bipartisan Senate Bill Would Give Marijuana Businesses Access To Insurance Coverage (Marijuana Moment)

// Hundreds Of Pet Owners Tell FDA That CBD Is Helping Their Furry Companions (Marijuana Moment)


Check out our other projects:
Marijuana Today— Our flagship title, a weekly podcast examining the world of marijuana business and activism with some of the smartest people in the industry and movement.
Marijuana Media Connect— A service that connects industry insiders in the legal marijuana industry with journalists, bloggers, and writers in need of expert sources for their stories.

Love these headlines? Love our podcast? Support our work with a financial contribution and become a patron.

Photo: Patrick Thibodeau/Flickr