As we move closer to the 2020 presidential election, cannabis advocates are hopeful that federal prohibition’s end is finally on the horizon.
Unfortunately, for those seeking the long-anticipated elimination of cannabis criminalization, one of the candidates with the best chance of securing the Democratic Party’s nomination for 2020 is saying not so fast. Despite a solid majority of voters supporting cannabis legalization and research showing cannabis use does not typically lead to the use of other narcotics, former Vice President Joe Biden is still peddling one of cannabis propaganda’s greatest hits.
“The truth of the matter is, there’s not nearly been enough evidence that has been acquired as to whether or not it is a gateway drug,” Biden said at a town hall in Las Vegas over the weekend according to Business Insider. “It’s a debate, and I want a lot more before I legalize it nationally. I want to make sure we know a lot more about the science behind it.”
Biden did signal his support for medicinal cannabis use and stated that possession “should not be a crime.” Curiously, while he is concerned that cannabis use could lead to an increase in narcotics use overall, he still said that legalization is possible but should be a decision made by local government bodies.
“States should be able to make a judgment to legalize marijuana,” the former Vice President said.
The comments seem to be the latest shift in what is becoming a murky policy stance. In 1994, then-Senator Biden helped usher in the controversial crime bill which helped set harsh penalties for cannabis possession. In September, Biden, while trying to soften a cannabis stance that’s out of step with the American public, only made his policy position more confusing. At a Democratic Party debate, he said no one should be incarcerated for cannabis but that he still felt possession should be a misdemeanor. In many jurisdictions, a misdemeanor cannabis conviction carries along the possibility of prison time.
Andrew Yang, a successful business executive, attorney, and fellow Democratic candidate for the presidency came out in defense of legalizing cannabis on Monday.
“Marijuana should be legal nationwide,” Yang said on Twitter. “It is already legal in several states, it reflects a safer approach to pain relief than opiates, and our administration of drug laws is deeply uneven and racist.”
Almost every other Democratic candidate for 2020 has come out in support of cannabis legalization. Senators Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Bernie Sanders all support the Marijuana Justice Act, a bill that would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act. If passed, the legislation would also expunge cannabis-related convictions. Pete Buttigieg, who is the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and just vaulted into the lead for the Iowa Caucus, has signaled his support for decriminalizing all drug use.