Thursday marks the end of President Joe Biden’s first year in office—and, by and large, his campaign promises on marijuana policy have so far gone unfilled. And while certain federal agencies have taken some positive reform steps, the administration managed to stir controversy over some outwardly hostile actions with respect to cannabis policy.
Contrary to Biden’s campaign pledges, cannabis has not been federally decriminalized, people remain in federal prison over non-violent marijuana offenses and the plant has yet to be rescheduled under the Controlled Substances Act. Of the cannabis promises that Biden made while running for president, just one has been met so far: the government has continued to let states implement marijuana reform mostly without federal intervention, though ongoing lack of clarity from the administration has caused continuing complications for the industry and consumers.
In one of the more notable positive developments to come out of the Oval Office, however, Biden did sign an infrastructure bill last year that contains language meant to help promote marijuana research.
While there were numerous successes on the reform front in 2021 those mostly came at the state level, and advocates feel disappointed by the overall White House inaction—especially considering that it was promised to voters ahead of the 2020 election.
It’s not just that there were no meaningful reform actions in Biden’s first year, either. It’s that some of the few actions he did take on marijuana—proposing in his budget to keep blocking Washington, D.C. from legalizing cannabis sales and punishing White House staff who were honest about past marijuana use—were setbacks in the movement.
Biden himself hasn’t made a substantive public comment about cannabis policy since entering the Oval Office, beside making a quick, dismissive comment to a reporter who asked about clemency for current prisoners. Vice President Kamala Harris, for her part, said last year that the Biden administration isn’t focused on following through on its marijuana reform pledges because it’s too overwhelmed with responding to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The Biden Administration’s failure to live up to campaign statements and, in the case of including a rider preventing D.C. from regulating cannabis in his budget proposal, even backsliding on cannabis is extremely disappointing,” Morgan Fox, the newly installed political director of NORML, told Marijuana Moment. “This inaction on modest cannabis policy reforms over the past year is inexcusable and is a betrayal of the people that put the president in office.”
“The president has an opportunity with cannabis to show initiative and leadership on an issue that enjoys broad bipartisan support,” he said. “Continued inaction on this issue will have negative consequences for his party this year and in 2024.”
Here’s a rundown of what has happened with marijuana and broader drug policy under the Biden administration in its first year:
Promise Made, Promises Not Kept
When he was running for president, Biden frustrated advocates by declining to embrace broad marijuana legalization like most of his Democratic primary opponents did at the time. But they were at least encouraged that he voiced support for more modest reforms like federal decriminalization, legalizing medical cannabis, rescheduling and expungements.
“We should decriminalize marijuana,” he said during a town hall event in October 2020, adding, “I don’t believe anybody should be going to jail for drug use.”
He reiterated the pledge in numerous interviews, debates and tweets, as well as in a campaign ad.
But despite having the authority to unilaterally issue a mass pardon for people with federal cannabis convictions—as advocates and lawmakers have repeatedly pressed him to do—Biden has only ceremonially pardoned turkeys around Thanksgiving since taking office.
Following that ceremony, The New York Post’s Steven Nelson pressed the president on cannabis clemency, asking him if there were plans to pardon “any people in addition to turkeys.” Biden jokingly replied, “you need a pardon?” and didn’t respond to a follow-up question about marijuana prisoners.
The White House has been asked about the issue several times now, but while Press Secretary Jen Psaki recently said that the president has “every intention of using his clemency power” and is “looking at” relief for non-violent drug offenders, no meaningful action has been taken.
While on the campaign trail, Biden also came out in favor of moving marijuana from Schedule I to II under the federal Controlled Substances Act—an incremental move that wouldn’t legalize the plant but could make it easier for researchers to study its risks and benefits.
Psaki said in April that Biden’s clemency promise for people with federal marijuana convictions and said that process would start with modestly rescheduling cannabis. But even if rescheduling could help people with cannabis records (experts say it would not), the administration has so far taken no real steps to accomplish that reform.
While experts say it may not be possible for a president to unilaterally remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, he could encourage agencies like the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Justice Department to initiate the rescheduling process.
The lack of clemency action is especially disappointing to advocates who have been lobbying the White House to do something on this issue.
Biden has received about a dozen letters from lawmakers, advocates, celebrities and people impacted by criminalization to do something about the people who remain behind federal bars over cannabis. After months of inaction, some members of Congress like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) have even sent follow-up letters demanding a response.
A recently published Congressional Research Service (CRS) report affirmed that the president has it within his power to grant mass pardons for cannabis offenses. It also said that the administration can move to federally legalize cannabis without waiting for lawmakers to act.
To his credit, Biden has so far kept his campaign pledge to continue to let states legalize and regulate marijuana without federal intervention. But advocates had hoped that he would at least push for the reinstatement of Obama-era Justice Department guidance to prosecutors that generally urged them not to interfere with state laws but which President Donald Trump’s first attorney general rescinded.
Without that guidance or any other concrete reform steps, banking challenges and risks remain in the cannabis industry, marijuana businesses are unable to receive tax credits like other legal industries and other hardships resulting from the federal-state policy conflict remain intact for consumers and patients. In effect, Biden has maintained the status quo of uncertainty that has been in place during the Trump administration and last half of the Obama administration.
Early in 2021, the Biden administration came under fire after it was reported that it had terminated or otherwise punished dozens of staffers who admitted to prior marijuana use as part of their background check process.
Psaki previously attempted to minimize the fallout, without much success, and her office also stressed that nobody was fired for “marijuana usage from years ago,” nor has anyone been terminated “due to casual or infrequent use during the prior 12 months.” However, she’s consistently declined to speak to the extent to which staff have been suspended or placed in a remote work program because they were honest about their history with marijuana on the federal background check form.
As part of his fiscal year 2022 budget proposal, Biden included a rider that would continue to block Washington, D.C. from using its own tax dollars to legalize adult-use marijuana sales, declining to recommend that existing language barring such activity be eliminated. Democratic lawmakers have moved forward with removing that rider anyways
After receiving a letter from a congresswoman concerning executive discretion for cannabis consumers, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) said it is required to continue denying federally assisted housing to people who use marijuana, even if they’re acting in compliance with state law.
The federal government has generally taken a hands-off approach to marijuana enforcement in states that have chosen to legalize the plant, but it was reported late last year that a federal agency raided a small, home cannabis garden of a medical cannabis patient living on Indian territory in New Mexico. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) raid occurred in September.
Biden’s Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) said last year that it continues to oppose a bill that would require it to conduct clinical trials into the therapeutic potential of marijuana for military veterans. A House committee advanced the legislation in any case. A VA representative told lawmakers that the department is “already dedicating resources and research expertise to study the effects of cannabis on conditions affecting veterans.”
“President Biden has made little progress in supporting drug reform laws at the federal level and in some instances, has even taken us further back,” Maritza Perez, director of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, told Marijuana Moment.
On broader drug issues, she added that the administration backed a broad scheduling policy for fentanyl-related substances that “will have a devastating impact on the criminal legal system and set a horrific precedent for drug scheduling moving forward.”
“Moreover, President Biden has failed to embrace marijuana legalization even though he claims to support decriminalization of the substance,” Perez said. “As long as marijuana remains on the CSA, people will continue to be policed, arrested, and imprisoned for marijuana activity. This is deeply problematic particularly because this president made bold promises around criminal justice reform and racial justice for which he has not delivered.”
Federal Actions On Marijuana
There were some positive developments in drug policy reform that came out of federal agencies and the White House last year.
Biden signed a massive infrastructure bill in November that includes provisions aimed at allowing researchers to study the actual marijuana that consumers are purchasing from state-legal dispensaries instead of having to use only government-grown cannabis. The legislation also encourages states that have enacted legalization laws to educate people about impaired driving.
In his 2022 budget, Biden proposed continuing a spending bill provision that’s been annually renewed by Congress since 2014 to prevent the use of Justice Department funds to interfere in state medical cannabis programs. That was the first time a president has moved to keep that rider.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) under Biden has also moved on several occasions to greatly increase legal production quotas for illegal Schedule I drugs like psilocybin, MDMA and DMT.
And several years after first announcing that it would take steps to break the federal marijuana manufacturing monopoly for research, it has finally issued new licenses outside of the University of Mississippi.
Meanwhile, DEA has given hemp businesses that sell delta-8 THC products a boost, with representatives making comments recently signaling that, at the federal level at least, it’s not a controlled substance at this time.
Employment policies related to marijuana have also been shifting within federal agencies under Biden, despite the controversy of his administration’s cannabis-related firings.
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) said in a memo distributed to agencies last year that admitting to past marijuana use should not automatically disqualify people from being employed in the federal government.
More recently, the director of national intelligence (DNI) said federal employers shouldn’t outright reject security clearance applicants over past use and should use discretion when it comes to those with cannabis investments in their stock portfolios.
FBI quietly updated its hiring policies last year to make it so candidates are only automatically disqualified from joining the agency if they admit to having used marijuana within one year of applying. However, it later revised the policy again to add a stipulation that applicants are ineligible if they’ve used cannabis more than 24 times after turning 18.
In September, The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) proposed a change to the federal drug scheduling system that it hopes will streamline research into Schedule I controlled substances including marijuana and psychedelics such as psilocybin. DEA and NIDA later said that they supports the plan.
While the Biden administration has yet to take a position on policy proposals to authorize safe consumption facilities and a related court challenge against them that are carried over from the Trump administration, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) put out a pair of requests for applications last month for an effort that will provide funding for efforts to investigate how that and other harm reduction policies could help address the drug crisis.
After requesting permission from the White House to conduct the survey of about 20,000 hemp farmers, The U.S.Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service announced in August that the forms are being finalized to be filled out via mail or online.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), meanwhile, still hasn’t gotten around to issuing regulations for hemp-derived cannabidiol products, but it announced last year that it plans to use Reddit and other “novel” data sources to gain a better understanding of public health issues surrounding use of CBD and other “emerging” cannabis derivatives like delta-8 THC.
Federal, state and local officials convened for a national conference this month where members discussed and advanced proposals to establish standards for marijuana products that could later be formally adopted into a federal handbook overseen by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
While Biden hasn’t granted mass clemency for people with marijuana convictions, his administration did take a first step toward granting presidential relief to hundreds of people on home confinement for federal drug convictions last year, with the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) asking eligible individuals to get the process started by filing out clemency applications.
Biden Nominees On Drug Policy
Several of Biden’s pick to lead key agencies have unique drug policy backgrounds. And some of those choices who’ve since been confirmed have been applauded by advocates.
Activists initially weren’t sure what to make of Attorney General Merrick Garland when he was nominated because of his limited record, but they were relieved during his confirmation proceedings to hear that he wasn’t preparing a crackdown on legal cannabis states.
While he’s yet to reinstitute the Obama era guidance offering some level of protection for states that have legalized, he has said on several occasions that DOJ resources shouldn’t be spent going after people operating in compliance with state cannabis laws.
He also hasn’t acted on calls from lawmakers to use his own authority to swiftly end federal cannabis prohibition.
ONDCP Director Rahul Gupta worked as a consultant to Holistic Industries, a multi-state cannabis operator, for nine months in 2020. Prior to his confirmation, Gupta had already caught the attention of reform advocates given his record overseeing the implementation of West Virginia’s medical marijuana program as state health commissioner and chair of a key advisory board. He’s also publicly recognized both the therapeutic and economic potential of cannabis reform.
It was another relief to advocates that the president didn’t pick former Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), a cofounder of anti-legalization organization Smart Approaches To Marijuana (SAM), for the drug czar job, even after he personally lobbied for the nomination.
Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta (no relation to Rahul) was also repeatedly pressed on her drug policy views during her confirmation process, particularly where she stands on broad decriminalization. Advocates expressed frustration that she denied having endorsed decriminalization during the hearings despite having done so in past roles at reform organizations.
Former California Attorney General Xavier Becerra was picked to lead HHS, and it was welcome news for advocates because he has a considerable record supporting cannabis reform and working to protect California’s legal program from federal interference.
For example, Becerra was one of 21 state attorneys general who sent a letter to congressional leaders in 2019 expressing support for a bipartisan bill to protect state-legal cannabis programs against federal intervention.
In October, Becerra also signaled that the administration would not block the establishment safe injection sites where people could use illicit drugs in a medically supervised environment as a means of curtailing the overdose epidemic—but it will ultimately be up to the Justice Department to follow through.
As California’s attorney general, Becerra joined counterparts from other states in signing onto an amicus brief supporting a group’s case to set up a harm reduction center. After making supportive remarks about the facilities as HHS secretary, however, a department spokesperson clarified that “HHS does not have a position on supervised consumption sites.”
Biden’s nominee for FDA commissioner has acknowledged the potential medical benefits of marijuana. Robert Califf, who previously served a short stint as the FDA head under the Obama administration, also said that he actually prescribed a cannabinoid drug as a doctor. He’s yet to be confirmed, however.
Tom Vilsack, Biden’s nominee to run USDA who has since been confirmed, gave final approval to a federal rule laying out regulations for the hemp industry in March 2021. He’s widely considered an ally of the hemp industry.
The head of DEA who Biden selected previously described a New Jersey medical marijuana bill as “workable” while serving at the state’s attorney general. Although the former top state prosecutor, Anne Milgram, doesn’t appear to have publicly detailed her personal views on cannabis reform, the limited comments she made over a decade ago signal that, at the very least, she’s open to allowing states to enact their own marijuana policies despite federal prohibition.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen recently said that that freeing up banks to work with state-legal marijuana businesses would “of course” make the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) job of collecting taxes easier. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) said this month that he’s confident that Biden would support his cannabis banking bill if it arrived on his desk in part because of the conversations he’s had with Yellen about the issue.
Adewale Adeyemo, who Biden picked for the role of Treasury deputy secretary, said in February 2021 that he would look into the possibility of updating 2014 Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) guidance on marijuana banking.
Isabel Guzman, who was picked and confirmed to lead the federal Small Business Administration (SBA), told senators last year that she would examine marijuana businesses’ inability to receive aid that is available to companies in other industries. She also promised last year to “explore” ways the agency could change its policy on prohibiting people with certain criminal convictions—including over marijuana—from accessing federal business loans and other services.
It’s also worth noting that the head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Nora Volkow, has repeatedly made comments on the need for a drug decriminalization model while Biden has been in office, though her tenure predates this presidency.
What To Expect From Biden In 2022
Advocates aren’t necessarily holding their breath for a 2022 marijuana reform push from the White House, but they certainly plan to continue to put pressure on the Biden administration in the new year and see opportunities for at least incremental reform.
With respect to federal agencies and their various heads, it seems the infrastructure is in place to continue to advance incremental policy changes that are less punitive and more science-centered with respect to cannabis, psychedelics and broader drug reform.
Toi Hutchinson, former senior advisor on cannabis to Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) and current CEO and president of the Marijuana Policy Project, told Marijuana Moment that it is unfortunate that states have so far lacked “guidance or participation from the federal government” on the cannabis reform front.
“States are left to develop and impose their own testing, health and safety rules. Banks are afraid of violating criminal law by serving licensed operators,” she said. “Individuals in one state compete for state licenses to produce and sell cannabis on an industrial scale, where they face arrest, prosecution, and jail in a neighboring state to even possess a single gram of the same substance.”
“Democrats, including President Biden when he was on the campaign trail, have been clear in their support for cannabis reform, and voters listened,” she said. “Whether it’s full legalization in 2022, or simply the ability for cannabis businesses to get a bank or get tax relief, we expect to see cannabis reform because that is exactly what we were told.”
From the Archives: The Secret Life of Walter Disney (1979)
By Jim Hoberman
“I don’t like depressing pictures. I don’t like pestholes. I don’t like pictures that are dirty. I don’t ever go out and pay money for studies in abnormality. I don’t have depressed moods and I don’t want to have any. I’m happy, just very, very happy.” — Walt Disney
I’ll let down my trousers and shit stories on them, stories… ” — Samuel Beckett, The Unnameable
One of the things about life that used to bug Walt Disney was death. He hated the idea of it. “Dad never goes to a funeral if he can help it,” daughter Diane once revealed. “If he has to go to one, it plunges him into a reverie which lasts for hours after he’s home.” Obviously Walt was figuring something out. “I don’t want a funeral. I want people to remember me alive,” he’d say. Accordingly, when Disney died in December 1966 his funeral service wasn’t announced until after it was over. No details, including disposition of the body, were ever released. All that The Los Angeles Times was able to discover was that the “secret rites” had been conducted at Forest Lawn Cemetery—a theme park with a “Mausoleum of Freedom” for dead soldiers and a “Babyland” for stillborn infants.
It’s not nice to kill off Santa Claus, so most cynics figured that the decision to downplay Disney’s funeral was simply good business. Romantics believed that Disney, with a late interest in cryogenics, had had himself frozen like a TV dinner to sleep on a cushion of liquid nitrogen until some Prince Charming appeared with a cure for the big C. Meanwhile Disney’s corporate heirs continued to act as though their master were still alive. By reverently and continually quoting his missives—always in the present-tense “Walt says…”—they fed the rumors that Disney had left them with a 20-year master plan in the form of filmed (why not holographed?) messages, a new one screened at each yearly board meeting.
Walt Disney never learned to draw Donald Duck or Pluto, or to duplicate the famous signature that emblazoned every one of his products, but his insight into the American collective unconscious was nothing short of mystical. It was Walt who spotted little Annette Funicello dancing in the Burbank Starlight Bowl and knew she’d be the sex star of “The Mickey Mouse Club”; it was Walt who coined the phrase “zip a dee doo dah,” which, once set to music, would win an Oscar for Song of the South (1946). Disney had the system beat: He copped an Emmy by televising an hour-long promo for an upcoming theatrical release: he maintained a separate firm that licensed the use of his name back to Walt Disney Productions. In the end, the culture machine that Walt built and left behind was so perfect that, like his android Abraham Lincoln, it could walk and talk without the benefit of a brain.
When cornered, Disney spokespersons will admit that today it is only “the merchandizing and publicity” that keep the original Disney characters alive. But they argue that “there is no corporation in the world that wouldn’t love to be associated with our family appeal,” and it’s true. Doubtless, Richard Nixon was hoping that a little Disneydust would rub off on him—and not be mistaken for dandruff—when he launched “Operation Candor” in the fall of 1973 by declaring, “I am not a crook” at a Disney World press conference. During the Vietnam War, the Laotian general Vang Pao used to parade with his troops while dressed in the Zorro suit presented to him on a trip to the Magic Kingdom.
In Chile, the Disney mythos became an emblem of the country’s native fascism. While the CIA organized, funded and armed opposition to the Allende government, Donald Duck used his comic strip to exhort his fellow funny animals to overthrow the revolutionaries and “restore the king,” and a March 1975 article in The New York Times, titled “How Life Survives in a Chilean Slum,” reported that “after the coup the president of the neighborhood council ripped down the socialist calendars and slogans that hung on the walls of his two-room wooden shack. In their place he put up some posters of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.”
Pushing everything from birth control in Costa Rica to chewing gum in Czechoslovakia, Disney’s characters are clearly the closest thing that the United States has to an official culture. Indeed, the man who succeeded in grafting a pair of mouse ears on the globe can justifiably be called the greatest artist that America has ever produced. At least since J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur.
For a man as intense as Disney in his desire to control his environment,” critic Richard Schickel once observed, “animation was the perfect medium psychologically.” The quintessential Disney shot occurs at the end of Song of the South as photographic reality melts into an idealized cartoonland. Yet. there was a brief time in Disney’s career when he used the cartoon not to supplant reality but to unmask it. In the first few heady days of Mickey Mouse (when Disney and his alter ego were still skinny, sharp-faced, somewhat sadistic fellows) the ex-farm-boy cartoonist gave vent to his suspicion that the world was nothing but one huge and bloody barnyard full of dirt, violence and exploitation. In Plane Crazy (1928) Mickey powered his jerry-built airship with a rubber band made out of a dachshund. In Steamboat Willie (1928) the mouse turned a bunch of pigs, goats and cows into musical instruments. Anticipating the Disney “True-Life Adventures” of the 1950, Mickey banged, twisted and tweaked their bodies to produce a rendition of “Turkey in the Straw.” But soon, Walt repressed such monsters from his/Mickey’s id. Enormous success made the team dully respectable. Around the time that Walt took up polo, the nouveau bourgeois Mickey became the first mouse in the history of the universe to own a pet dog.
Although Disney’s temper tantrums might be likened to those of Donald Duck, his later cartoons were only intermittently autobiographical. He satirized his love of animals by appearing in caricature as the matador in Ferdinand the Bull (1938) and probably identified with the heroine of Cinderella (1950), who spent her days sewing little caps for birds and pants for mice. In 1953 he made the coyly confessional Ben and Me, which attributed Benjamin Franklin’s success to the friendship of another clever mouse. Disney’s erotic kinks and miscellaneous obsessions can be found sprinkled throughout his work, but only once did he give full rein to the darkest drives of his complex personality.
In Pinocchio (1940), the masterpiece whose theme song “When You Wish upon a Star” would become the national anthem of Disneyland, Walt brooded over the nature of his art. Was he a kindly Geppetto, maker of toy marionettes? Or a greedy Stromboli, exploiting his puppets on the stage? The glamorous Blue Fairy who animated Pinocchio with the gift of life? Or the cruel proprietor of Pleasure Island, the amusement park where little boys are transformed into braying donkies? Perhaps he was Pinocchio himself—a wooden antihero who disappoints his “father,” suffers all manner of abuse and humiliation, and must finally journey into the belly of a whale to win his Papa’s approval and join the human race.
Such might have been the stuff of Disney’s childhood fantasies. His father. Elias Disney, was a hard man, as free with his whippings as he was tight with his money. When grown-up Walt became rich he bought himself all the toys and candy he felt denied as a child—scouring the world for doll furniture, constructing an elaborate electric train set around his house, installing a giant soda fountain in his living room. Young Disney lived on a farm, but when he was nine Elias bought a paper route in Kansas City. For the next six years dutiful Walt got up each morning at three-thirty, delivering his father’s papers for no more pay than bed and board. The rest of his life Disney suffered from a recurring nightmare that he had missed a customer along the route. His daughter recounted that “he wakes up sweating and thinking, ‘I’ll have to hurry and get back and leave a paper before Dad finds out that I didn’t.’”
Disney had good reason to hate his parents (with whom he had little to do once he became successful) and his childhood as well. His almost petulant insistence that his films and amuspment parks were intended for adults at least as much as for children supports the hunch once voiced by the littlest mousketeer, Karen Pendleton, that Uncle Walt really “didn’t like kids very much.” Kenneth Anger, the author of Hollywood Babylon, maintains that Disney, who had once been an inveterate practical joker, used to “open a small, rounded door in the wall—a fairytale door that creaked—and take his guests down a winding staircase into a dungeon filled with racks and Iron Maidens scaled to the size of a five year old. ‘Now this is how I really feel about the little bastards,’ he’d say, and puff on his cigar.”
One of Walt’s major improvements on nature would be to eliminate the biological link between parent and child. Thus, Pinocchio has no mother. Snow White and Cinderella are the victims of evil stepparents. Bambi’s momma gets killed and Dumbo is forcibly separated from his mother. “I believe that every conception is immaculate,” he told a staff member, and he opened Dumbo (1941) with a squadron of storks flying over Florida to “deliver” the babies of expectant circus animals. In the Disney comic books of the 1950s, families like the Ducks of Duckburg were linked in a curious uncle-to-nephew or (less frequently, as Duckburg and environs were primarily male) aunt-to-niece formation. One suspects that Disney did not consider the absence of genital sexuality to be any great loss. With the warmth of a computer print-out he once explained his motivation for marriage: “I realized that I’d need a new roommate, so I proposed to Lilly.” Late in his life he was quoted as saying, “Girls bored me—they still do,” and “I love Mickey Mouse more than any woman I ever met.”
The most suggestive sequence in the entire Disney oeuvre occurs in Melody Time (1948) when Slue Foot Sue kisses Pecos Bill and his six-guns spontaneously shoot their load, but Ward Kimball, the animator on that scene, claims that Disney actually missed the innuendo. “You could never tell Walt a dirty joke,” he recalled. Yet, the Disney cosmos was not entirely devoid of eroticism. As Richard Schickel delicately put it: “Disney’s interest in the posterior was a constant in all his films. Rarely were we spared views of sweet little animal backsides twitching provocatively as their owners bent to some task.” The most famous of the many examples of this fetish is found at the climax of the “Pastoral Symphony” in Fantasia (1940)—the sequence of which Disney is supposed to have exclaimed, “Gee! This’ll make Beethoven!”—when two cupids draw a curtain over the mating dance of the centaurs and in doing so bring together their adorable butts to form a single palpitating heart.
Disney’s anal-eroticism carried over into a propensity for bathroom humor. This was usually edited out of his films, but it’s said that at least one squeamish writer quit the studio because flirtatious Walt kept slipping toilet jokes into her scripts. In an early TV special, Walt’s Christmas gift for America turned out to be a cartoon about a little boy who is unable to keep the back flap of his Dr. Dentons snapped and is presented by Santa with a tiny chamber pot. “He could talk about turds for 30 minutes without pausing for breath,” Kimball remembers. “One time Walt was late for a screening. He apologized by saying, ‘I was taking a shit.’ He’d often talk about turds. He’d talk about how big and juicy and light brown turds were when you’re a baby and how as you get older they get blacker and harder, and all that stuff. He’d go on and on and you kind of looked at him and wondered, when is he going to get to the punch line? There wasn’t any.”
Obviously Walt was able to channel some of his fascination with feces into adult concerns. One of his favorite koans was “Dollars are like fertilizer—they make things grow.” He exhibited in abundance the three cardinal traits of obstinacy, parsimony and orderliness by which Dr. Freud defined the anal personality. Perhaps this disposition was fanned by the numerous spankings Disney received at his father’s hands: perhaps it was related to the fact, dutifully recorded by daughter Diane, that grandma Disney used to reward little Walt with candy laxatives. In any case. Disney’s childhood anxiety over controlling his bowels became, in Schickel’s phrase, a “lifelong rage to order, control and keep clean any environment he inhabited… He just couldn’t abide a mess.”
When the Nazi filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl visited Hollywood in 1938, Disney was the only industry notable who greeted her publicly. Had he been smitten by the vision of totality that she had so adroitly presented in her pseudo-documentary Triumph of the Will (1934)—as controlled an artifice as any of his cartoons? For, although not everyone is as blunt as Kenneth Anger (who told an interviewer that “Walt Disney was the Hitler of children! He killed their imaginations by programming them with his saccharine prefab fantasies!”), it has more than once been observed that the mania for cleanliness, control and order was a trait that Uncle Walt happened to share with the Nazi dictator.
Of course, Disney only indulged in the fantasy of mass murder, and just once at that. Under the pressure of World War II but acting as a private citizen, he dreamed up Victory Through Air Power (1943), a long-since-suppressed feature-length cartoon that ended with the triumphant obliteration of Tokyo. Apparently the film displayed an alienation worthy of Riefenstahl’s. A contemporary film reviewer cited the absence of “suffering and dying enemy civilians” underneath its animated explosions and called it “a gay dream of holocaust” that reduced war to a “morally simple [matter] of machine-eat-machine.”
But whatever else Walt and Hitler had in common, the Führer (unlike his buddy Benito Mussolini) was not a fan of “Michael Maus.” Evidently no mouse could be clean enough for Hitler. He termed Mickey “the most miserable ideal ever revealed” and unsuccessfully attempted to have it banned from his Reich. Hitler’s failure to get rid of Mickey may explain the megalomaniac undercurrent in Disney’s response to this attack on his alter ego. In a ghost-written magazine article of the mid 1930s he complained that “Mr. A. Hitler, the Nazi old thing, says Mickey’s silly. Imagine that! Well. Mickey is going to save Mr. A. Hitler from drowning one day. Just wait and see if he doesn’t. Then won’t Mr. A. Hitler be ashamed!”
However, by the time he made The New Spirit (1942), the first of the government-sponsored propaganda and training films that virtually subsidized the Disney studio during World War II, Walt did decide to let the “Nazi old thing” drown. He demonstrated his distaste by showing the swastika “flushed away in a vortex of dark, swirling water.” The next year saw Education for Death (with Hitler playing Prince Charming to Hermann Goering’s mountainous Sleeping Beauty) and Disney’s greatest piece of agitprop, Donald in Nutzi Land. Also known as Der Führer’s Face, the cartoon won an Oscar, while Spike Jones’s recording of the soundtrack sold a million and a half copies. In a dour comment on the mock flatulence of the song’s chorus, Richard Schickel remarked, “Even in wartime [the Disney studio] found a way to state its belief in the location—the seat as it were—of human emotions.”
What’s particularly interesting about Der Führer’s Face is Disney’s visualization of “Nutzi Land.” Donald’s room is plastered with swastika wallpaper, he sleeps in swastika pajamas between swastika sheets, his alarm clock keeps time with swastika numerals. It’s as though the Disney artists were rehashing the 2,000 Snow White products that helped pull the toy industry through the recession of 1937. Even nature is not immune to the totality of “Nutzi Land.” Outside Donald’s window we see that trees and hedges have been shaped into swastikas. Such an improvement may never have occurred to Hitler, but a decade or so later the bushes of Disneyland would be carefully trimmed to resemble Mickey, Donald and Dumbo.
When Disneyland opened in 1955 it was with one inescapable stipulation. Before being born again within the confines of the Magic Kingdom, each guest had to pass through an idealized version of the Marceline, Missouri Main Street where Walt believed he’d spent his happiest years. “To the people in Marceline, I’m like God.” Disney used to say.
Gustave Flaubert’s crack that “life is so horrible one can only bear it by avoiding it, by living in the world of art” might have served Disney as his lifelong motto. His very first cartoons reversed the formula of the Fleischer Brothers’ popular Out of the Inkwell series. While the latter brought its star, Koko the clown, off the drawing board and into photographic reality, Disney’s Alice in Cartoonland locked a real child into an animated universe. Then Disney himself, in a manner of speaking, became Alice, as the voice and alter ego of the fabulous Mickey Mouse, and the success of this mutant creature—hailed by Sergei Eisenstein as ‘America’s most original contribution to world culture”—enabled him to dream of someday building Cartoonland in steel and concrete.
In Disneyland, above the firehouse on Main Street where Disney creatures with air-conditioned, encephalitic heads amble among the crowds like the sacred cattle of Calcutta, Walt furnished a little apartment for himself. By night, in his bathrobe, he roamed through “the happiest place on earth” alone. They say that when the Reverend Billy Graham came to bless his fellow wizard’s “fantasy,” Walt exploded, “Fantasy? The Fantasy is out there… outside the gates!“ But in Anaheim, “outside” wasn’t far enough away. You could stand in the parking lot and see the fast-food stops and motels encrusted like neon barnacles on the Disney ship of state. When Walt reconstructed his World in Florida he purchased a forty-square-mile tract to more perfectly insulate it.
In Walt Disney World the security guards don’t wear uniforms but “costumes.” Employees aren’t hired, they’re “cast” and programmed with fewer responses than the android birds of the Enchanted Tiki Room. Tie clips, hair ribbons, deodorants and sometimes even names are subject to company approval. All employees are graduates of the University of Walt Disney, where they have studied Walt Disney Traditions One and Two and learned, in the words of one campus directive, “to enjoy thinking our way.” The World, as it’s called, controls its own sewage and utility systems, writes its own building codes, appoints its own judges, maintains its own police force and—so it claims—harbors the planet’s fifth largest fleet of submarines.
Everything—from the udderless robot hippos of the Jungle Cruise, to the people mover in Tomorrowland, to the Muzak rendition of “Someday My Prince Will Come” that wafts through the lobby of the Polynesian Village hotel—is controlled from a subterranean computer center. So too is the “Automatic Monitoring and Control System,” which keeps every inch of the World under constant video surveillance. Tomorrowland (really Todayland) to the contrary, the future, as George Allen used to say, is now. Apologists for the World claim that “with computers and statistics it’s easy to prove what’s art,” that the World has been “designed to satisfy the existing imaginations of tens of millions of men, women and children,” even that one can no longer tell the World from reality! When Walt died he was drawing up plans for a city—cash free, climate controlled, vacuum cleaned—a space-age pyramid of Cheops where 20,000 or so lucky Alices could live inside his Magic Kingdom for the rest of their lives.
Read the full issue here.
Kansas Democrats Push For Medical Marijuana Ahead Of Legislative Deadline
Kansas Democrats are making a final push for the legislature to pass a bill to legalize medical marijuana ahead of Monday’s scheduled end of the session.
While a medical cannabis bill already cleared the House of Representatives last year and a bicameral conference committee met last month to discuss a potential deal to get the measure to the governor’s desk, negotiations appear to have reached a standstill.
If the Republican-controlled legislature doesn’t move quickly, lawmakers will have to start the process all over again in 2023.
“Kansans continue to demand access to medical marijuana. The conference committee on medical marijuana needs to respond; the House is ready to meet and waiting on the Senate’s cooperation,” House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer (D) said in a press release on Friday. “Unless this happens on Monday, May 23rd, the process will restart in the next biennium. Legislators are accountable to constituents and they have made it clear: Legalize medical marijuana. It’s time to listen.”
The #ksleg-islature returns to Topeka on Monday, May 23rd to wrap up the year’s work. There are three things that must be addressed: Providing immediate tax relief, legalizing medical marijuana, and prohibiting gerrymandering.
🧵 Read more: https://t.co/kR1YnFyItw
— Kansas House Democrats (@KSHouseDems) May 20, 2022
Members of the House and Senate Federal and State Affairs Committees held two public meetings last month to discuss a way to merge the House-passed medical marijuana bill with a separate one that Senate lawmakers began considering this year. At the last official meeting, lawmakers from the House side went through areas where they were willing to concede to differences in the other chamber’s bill, as well as provisions they wanted to keep from their own measure.
In general, the two chambers’ proposals were already fairly similar, sharing numerous key provisions.
But to get closer to consensus, House Federal and State Affairs Committee Chairman John Barker (R) said the body is willing to accept about a dozen elements of the Senate version, while explaining where there could be compromise on others and where the chamber wasn’t willing to budge.
Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,000 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.
Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.
The plan was to incorporate whatever language is agreed upon into a separate, unrelated legislative vehicle that already cleared both chambers in order to expedite passage. However, even if the bicameral committee were to reach an agreement, the conference report would still need to be approved on the floor of each chamber in order to reach the governor’s desk.
That would need to happen before lawmakers adjourn for the year on Monday.
Kansans continue to demand access to medical marijuana. The conference committee on #mmj needs to respond; the House is ready to meet & waiting on the Senate. Unless this happens on Monday, the process will restart in 2023. #ksleg
— Kansas House Democrats (@KSHouseDems) May 20, 2022
Patients with any of more than 20 qualifying conditions—including cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, and autoimmune disorders—would be eligible for medical cannabis.
Patients would be entitled to obtain a 30-day supply of medical cannabis products at a time.
Possession of up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana by a person who isn’t registered as a patient would be decriminalized, punishable by a maximum fine of $400.
Patients’ medical cannabis recommendations would be valid for 90 days, after which point a physician could renew the recommendations for three additional periods. Then extensions could be authorized following a physical examination of the patient annually.
Medical cannabis sales would be subject to the state sales tax of 5.75 percent, with the option of adding a local tax.
Multiple regulatory bodies would be in charge of administering the program. The state Department of Health and Environment, Board of Healing Arts, Board of Pharmacy and a renamed Alcohol and Cannabis Control division would each play a role in the regulations.
The legislation would also establish a medical marijuana advisory committee to help oversee the program and issue recommendations.
The bill calls for five different license types: cultivators, processors, laboratories, distributors and retailers. People would be rendered ineligible for a medical marijuana licenses if they’ve been convicted of a felony, unless that conviction was expunged at least 10 years before the application is submitted.
There would also be a 35 percent THC cap on marijuana plant material.
Counties would be able to enact local bans on permitting marijuana retailers from operating within their jurisdictions through the adopt of a resolution.
With respect to equity provisions, there does not appear to be an explicit pathway for expungements.
Here are some of the changes that the House said it was willing to accept from the Senate bill:
Pushing back the effective date of the law and deadlines for its implementation.
Removing a 70 percent THC cap on cannabis concentrates.
Out-of-state patients would have reciprocity to both possess and purchase marijuana if they’re registered with their state.
Preventing discrimination in real estate transactions to lease or sell property to registered medical marijuana patients.
Keep the Senate’s licensing application requirements, terms of licensing and rules on where cannabis businesses can operate.
Requiring certain security measures at medical marijuana businesses.
Requiring the state to enter into agreements with tribal governments in order to exchange cannabis.
Doctors wouldn’t have to start “prescribing,” rather than recommending, medical marijuana if the federal government reclassifies cannabis.
Here are some areas where the House is insisting on its version, or offering a compromise:
Maintaining most of the list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana, which includes more than 20 ailments, but keeping its more limited language and removing glaucoma.
Allowing people to receive a medical marijuana business licenses after at least three years of residency in Kansas. The original House bill called for four years, while the Senate had two years.
Allowing regulators to create a unique payment process system for cannabis sales in coordination with the state treasurer.
Keeping a $500 license fee for associated employees of medical marijuana businesses, but lowering fees for other employee types.
Keeping state and local licensing eligibility requirements as stated in the House bill.
There were some additional outstanding items that members hadn’t quite decided on as of last month’s meeting and said they needed additional time to work. Those issues are related to advertising requirements, rules for cultivation facilities, licensing fees, creating a pilot program for medical cannabis and employment discrimination.
After his House counterpart went through the list of provisions and proposals at the April hearing, Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee Chairman Robert Olson (R) signaled that members would be going back to leadership to see where the chambers can come to an agreement and then “discuss this at a later date” in conference.
It’s not clear how those conversations with leadership have gone, though the conference committee hasn’t since scheduled any additional public meetings to discuss reaching a deal between the two chambers.
Sawyer and Assistant Minority Leader Jason Probst (D) said in January that they wanted to let voters decide on legalizing medical and adult-use marijuana in the state.
Gov. Laura Kelly (D), for her part, wants to see medical cannabis legalization enacted, and she said earlier this year that she “absolutely” thinks the bill could pass if “everything else doesn’t take up all the oxygen.”
She previously pushed a separate proposal that would legalize medical cannabis and use the resulting revenue to support Medicaid expansion, with Rep. Brandon Woodard (D) filing the measure on the governor’s behalf.
Kelly has she said she wants voters to put pressure on their representatives to get the reform passed.
The governor also said in 2020 that while she wouldn’t personally advocate for adult-use legalization, she wouldn’t rule out signing the reform into law if a reform bill arrived on her desk.
More Than 6 In 10 Missouri Adults Support Legalizing Cannabis As Initiative Heads Toward Ballot, New Poll Says
With cannabis legalization on track to be on Missouri’s November ballot, a newly released poll indicates strong support in the state. Of those surveyed, 62 percent said they support legalizing marijuana, while 25 percent said the drug should remain illegal. Another 13 percent said they weren’t sure.
Support for legalization was strong across party lines. Though majorities of Democrats and independents have long favored the policy change more than Republicans, the new poll also that more GOP voters support legalization (49 percent) than oppose it (38 percent).
The survey comes on the heels of activists at Legal Missouri 2022 earlier this month turning in what they said are more the double the required number of signatures needed to qualify a legalization initiative. Provided the signatures are validated by elections officials, the measure would go before voters in November.
The new SurveyUSA poll, conducted on behalf of TV stations across the state between May 11 and May 15, asked 2,175 Missouri adults questions about various policy issues, including law enforcement and public schools.
Across nearly every demographic group—including race, gender, age and party identification—more respondents favored legalization than opposed it.
On aggregate, a greater proportion of men (66 percent) than women (58 percent) said they support legalizing marijuana. Younger respondents, such as those in the 18-34 and 35-49 age groups (both of had 71 percent support) were also more likely to favor the policy change than older groups in the 50-64 (59 percent) or 65+ (46 percent) age groups.
Black and white respondents showed near-equal levels of support for legalization, at 62 percent, but white people also were more likely than Black respondents to say cannabis should remain illegal (27 percent and 14 percent, respectively). Among people who said they belong to another racial group, 57 percent favored legalization, 19 percent opposed it, and 24 percent—more than any other group—said they weren’t sure.
Strong majorities of Democrats (76 percent) and independents (66 percent) also said marijuana should be legal. By contrast, only 49 percent of Republicans said they support legalization—but that’s still more than the 38 percent of Republicans who oppose it. And 13 percent of GOP respondents remain undecided.
The only groups that had more people opposing legalization than in favor were those who identified as “very conservative” or who said abortion should always be illegal.
The campaign manager for the adult-use legalization push, John Payne, previously led the successful 2018 ballot effort in Missouri to legalize medical cannabis. If Legal Missouri 2022’s proposal becomes law, it would allow all adults 21 and over to possess and consume cannabis.
Here’s what Legal Missouri 2022’s reform initiative would accomplish:
Adults 21 and older could purchase and possess up to three ounces of cannabis.
They could also grow up to six flowering marijuana plants, six immature plants and six clones if they obtain a registration card.
The initiative would impose a six percent tax on recreational cannabis sales and use revenue to facilitate automatic expungements for people with certain non-violent marijuana offenses on their records.
Remaining revenue would go toward veterans’ healthcare, substance misuse treatment and the state’s public defender system.
The Department of Health and Senior Services would be responsible for regulating the program and issuing licenses for cannabis businesses.
Regulators would be required to issue at least 144 microbusiness licenses through a lottery system, with priority given to low-income applicants and people who have been disproportionately impacted by drug criminalization.
Existing medical marijuana dispensaries would also be first in line to start serving adult consumers with dual licenses.
Regulators could create rules around advertising, but they could not be any more stringent than existing restrictions on alcohol marketing.
Public consumption, driving under the influence of cannabis and underage marijuana use would be explicitly prohibited.
A seed-to-sale tracking system would be established for the marijuana market.
Local jurisdictions would be able to opt out of permitting cannabis microbusinesses or retailers from operating in their area if voters approve the ban at the ballot.
The measure would further codify employment protections for medical cannabis patients.
Medical marijuana cards would be valid for three years at a time, instead of one. And caregivers would be able to serve double the number of patients.
Legal Missouri 2022’s initiative is backed by the Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association as well as ACLU of Missouri; St. Louis City, St. Louis County and St. Charles County chapters of the NAACP; NORML chapters in the state and Missouri Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. However, certain advocates and stakeholders have pushed back against the campaign.
Some advocates and stakeholders have raised concerns about the largely industry-funded proposal and pushed for legislative reform instead, like a legalization bill from Rep. Ron Hicks (R). That measure moved through the committee process, but failed to advance to a floor vote before the session adjourned on May 13.
Critics of the proposed initiative say its lack of language specifically prohibiting a licensing cap on businesses means that any market that emerges will be neither open nor competitive. Some have also raised concerns about the measure’s provisions to give medical cannabis dispensaries a head start in serving the adult-use market.
While Legal Missouri 2022’s measure appears to be headed for the ballot, those advocates aren’t the only ones who’ve called for legalization be decided by voters. Rep. Shamed Dogan (R) also introduced a GOP-led joint resolution this session that sought to put the matter on the state ballot. That measure cleared a House committee as well but did not see floor action.
A different campaign, Fair Access Missouri, separately explored multiple citizen initiatives this year with the hopes of getting at least one on the ballot.
Also this year, Republican Rep. Jason Chipman (R) filed a joint resolution this session that would let voters require additional oversight over how medical cannabis tax revenue is distributed to veterans. And another state lawmaker filed a bill late in February to decriminalize a range of drugs including marijuana, psilocybin, LSD, MDMA and cocaine.
In March, a Missouri House committee held a hearing on a GOP-led bill to legalize a wide range of psychedelics for therapeutic use at designated care facilities while further decriminalizing low-level possession in general.
Nearly 1 in 10 jobs that created in Missouri last year came from the state’s medical marijuana industry, according to an analysis of state labor data that was released by a trade group last month.
Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan
Stacey Abrams aims to recapture energy of first campaign
EXPLAINER: What’s in Biden’s proposed new Asia trade pact?
Russian offensive turns to key Donbas city, heavy shelling
Proposed law in Maryland would allow mothers to kill their babies up to 28 days after birth
California introduces new bill that would allow mothers to kill their babies up to 7 days after birth
100+ nations have global agreement now being deployed called ‘Project Sandman’ to drop and end dominance of U.S. dollar and petrodollar
Miami Gardens woman arrested after she told neighbors she killed her husband and buried him in her backyard
HHS Secretary admits Biden administration knew about baby formula shortage last year, did nothing about it
AEW Dynamite: Owen Hart Tournaments begin, FTW title match, MJF/Wardlow contract signing for Double Or Nothing
News15 hours ago
Surviving a day of doom at a Florida prepper convention
Politics16 hours ago
Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — Week of 5.15.22
News15 hours ago
Do Biden policy moves on Cuba, Venezuela doom Democrats’ chances in Florida?
Politics8 hours ago
EXC: The Infamous Wuhan Lab Recently Assembled Monkeypox Strains Using Methods Flagged For Creating ‘Contagious Pathogens’.
Politics8 hours ago
Archbishop Viganò Warns Nations of WHO’s Pandemic Treaty Power Grab: ‘Yielding Sovereignty Is Considered Crime of High Treason’
Politics8 hours ago
Bolsonaro Rejects WHO’s Pandemic Treaty: ‘Brazil Is Autonomous’
Sports20 hours ago
ATL 4, MIA 3; Marlins drop second straight versus Braves
Politics16 hours ago
Ron DeSantis defeats Donald Trump in Wisconsin straw poll