Here’s Why Critics Call Joe Biden an ‘Anti-Marijuana Zealot’
Former Vice President Joe Biden is officially running to be the 46th president of the United States. Some see Biden as the Democratic Party’s best chance to turf Trump in the 2020 election, but to cannabis advocates, Biden is a living relic of the War on Drugs that could send America backsliding into the darket days of the drug war.
That’s because Biden played an instrumental role in shaping American drug policy back in the ‘Just Say No’ 80s, when Biden was in the midst of his 26-year career as US senator for Delaware. In fact, the War on Drugs as we know it is all Biden’s fault, according to Allen St. Pierre — Executive Director of NORML (the National Organization for Reforming Marijuana Laws).
When Barack Obama picked Biden as his running mate for the 2008 election, St. Pierre described the move as “a punch to the gut.” He added that the drug war is “Joe Biden’s fault. As former chairman for the Senate Judiciary Committee, Biden is the person most responsible for passing a package of laws in the mid-80s that we think of as today’s drug war. Biden presided over the mandatory-minimum sentencing guidelines that required judges to sentence dealers’ girlfriends and small-time peddlers [sic] to decades-long terms in state and federal prisons, where thousands are rotting to this day.”
Biden’s fingerprints are all over every bad drug policy in America, according to Kevin Zeese — the former director of Common Sense for Drug Policy, who once said, “Pick a drug law you don’t like from the last 25 years and thank Senator Biden.” Those laws include the infamous 1994 crime bill, which Biden wrote. Since being signed into law by President Clinton, the crime bill has caused the rampant overcrowding of America’s prisons that we’ve seen over the last 20 years.
And as Kyle Jaeger of Marijuana Moment noted, Biden once boasted about helping Congress pass legislation to impose the death penalty against certain drug offenders.
So it’s no surprise that Biden’s critics have dubbed him an “anti-marijuana zealot.” He was one of the chief architects of a drug war that has wasted billions of taxpayer dollars and ruined countless lives. And he maintained his opposition to marijuana reform long after other diehard opponents began to question the wisdom of cannabis prohibition. When asked for his take on legalizing marijuana in 2010, Biden said, “I still believe it’s a gateway drug…I think it would be a mistake to legalize.” Since then, mounting research has shown that cannabis does not lead consumers to abuse harder drugs like heroin. In fact, cannabis could help addicts overcome their dependence to heroin and other drugs.
While Biden hasn’t recognized that scientific evidence or changed his position on legalization, he has warmed up somewhat to the issue of marijuana reform. In a 2014 interview with Time, Biden expressed tepid support for decriminalization. “I think the idea of focusing significant resources on interdicting or convicting people for smoking marijuana is a waste of our resources.”
So instead of imprisoning people for smoking a joint, Biden only wants to jail the people who grow it, cultivate it, distribute it and sell it. That sort of position might have seemed progressive in the early 2000s, but in 2014 — when four states had legalized recreational use and another 18 had legalized medical marijuana — pledging support for decriminalization was little more than lip service (especially since the Obama administration did not back up Biden’s words with legislation to end low-level drug busts across the country).
So if Biden wants to win back the trust of passionate cannabis consumers across the country, he needs to do more to not only advance marijuana reform but also atone for his past as one of the country’s top proponents of cannabis prohibition. And he might want to get started on that sooner than later since cannabis consumers are shaping up to be a silent swing vote in the 2020 election.