While speaking at a town-hall event in Las Vegas on Saturday, Joe Biden took a stance that is none too popular in the modern Democratic Party: that marijuana should not yet be legalized on a federal level. “It’s a debate,” the former vice president explained after expressing his belief that marijuana is a gateway drug. “Before I legalize it nationally, I want to make sure we know a lot more about the science behind it.”
The position drew criticism from the left throughout the week, culminating with a jab from Cory Booker during Thursday night’s Democratic debate. “I heard him literally say we should not legalize marijuana,” the senator said of Biden. “I thought you might have been high when you said it.”
It was the biggest laugh line of the night.
— NBC News (@NBCNews) November 21, 2019
But Booker wasn’t done. “Marijuana in our country is already legal for privileged people,” he continued, to more applause. “It’s why the War on Drugs has been a war on black and brown people…. With more African Americans under criminal supervision in America than all of the slaves since 1850, do not roll up into communities and not talk directly to issues that are going to relate to the liberation of children. There are people in Congress right now who admit to smoking marijuana, while there are people, our kids, who are in jail right now for those drug crimes.”
Biden responded by saying marijuana should be decriminalized and that anyone in jail for marijuana should have their records expunged. “But I do think it makes sense, based on data, that we should study what the long-term effects are for the use of marijuana,” he said, echoing his comments in Las Vegas. “That’s all it is.”
Though more research is never a bad thing, and marijuana’s current status as a Schedule I narcotic has made such research difficult, the idea that it is a gateway drug has largely been disproven.
Biden is the only candidate to have come out in opposition of legalizing marijuana on a federal level.