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Democrats Keep Cannabis Legalization Out of 2020 Platform

Members of the Democratic National Committee rejected an amendment to the platform that called for legalization by a 105-60 vote.

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Joe Biden's hoped-for change of heart on marijuana legalization may eventually come, but don't expect it anytime soon. The presumptive Democratic nominee won't have to deal with the issue in this election, as Democratic leaders decided not to make it part of the party platform.

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That decision came in the form of a 106-60 vote in July by Democratic National Committee delegates that rejected an amendment to the party platform calling for cannabis legalization. The draft platform, which can be read online, now supports decriminalization, much as Biden has during the campaign.

Related: "Kamala Harris Is There": Biden Veep Pick Inspires Cautious Optimism from Cannabiz

As for legalization, the draft platform leaves it up to states "to make their own decisions about recreational use." All 4,000 members of the Democratic National Committee must now vote on the platform ahead of the August party convention.

It's worth noting that most of the other Democrats who ran for the presidential nomination supported legalization at the federal level. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who got the second-most votes in the primary, had vowed to legalize marijuana by executive order in this first 100 days in office.

The rejection of legalization came as a blow to progressives.

The platform, put together by a party committee, took much of its points from a group made up of members picked by Vice President Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders, the progressive candidate who finished second to Biden in the primaries.

Biden and Sanders intended for the committee to show a united front in a party split along ideological lines that, in general, fall between progressives on the left and centrists. Biden has fallen squarely into the latter camp when it comes to his views on cannabis.

Biden's official position on cannabis is that he wants it decriminalized, something that most states have already done. He has said it "makes no sense" for people to go to jail for possessing marijuana. He also has called for more research into cannabis to determine its health impacts.

Related: Cannabis Legalization Is Not A Priority for Congress, Biden, or Trump. Here's Why.

Here's what the Democratic platform now says about cannabis.

As of the end of July, the Democratic platform states that the party believes "substance use disorders are diseases, not crimes" and that "no one should be in prison solely because they use drugs."

It then continues: "We will support the legalization of medical marijuana, and believe states should be able to make their own decisions about recreational use."

In wording that will perhaps alleviate concerns among cannabis business owners, the platform also makes it clear that the federal government should not take action that impedes states from setting up a legal marijuana system.

"The Justice Department should not launch federal prosecutions of conduct that is legal at the state level," the platform states. "All past criminal convictions for cannabis use should be automatically expunged. And rather than involving the criminal justice system, Democrats support increased use of drug courts, harm reduction interventions, and treatment diversion programs for those struggling with substance use disorders."

In another issue that is related to cannabis in terms of the split between progressives and moderates, the platform also does not call for the Medicare for All system advocated by Sanders and other candidates.

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