Note: Veriheal does not support or endorse any political candidate or their policies. We merely report on the facts as they are presented and their implications in regards to cannabis.
Former Vice President Joe Biden is dropping the “vice” and has won the presidency. After a decades-long career in politics, Biden has won the top spot in the nation. Come January, he will control the legislative policy of the free world, including when it comes to cannabis.
Joe Biden has a checkered past when it comes to cannabis and the so-called “war on drugs.” A history that his opponent, Donald Trump, tried to use to sway cannabis-minded voters. Here’s what he has said and done about cannabis legalization in the past.
NORML Supports Joe Biden
Paul Armentano, Deputy Director of the NORML Foundation, said that ultimately it’s Congress who decides about cannabis legalization in America.
“Arguably the most important outcome this Election with respect to the prospects of substantive future federal marijuana reforms would be flipping the Senate. Any substantive marijuana law reform legislation must go through Congress,” Armentano said in a statement to Veriheal.
“Reform advocates have established over the past two years that we have the votes in the House of Representatives to amend federal marijuana law — including permitting safe banking and removing the cannabis plant from its schedule I controlled status under the Controlled Substances Act — but until there is a shift in Senate leadership, any and all of these efforts will remain gridlocked in that chamber. By contrast, a Democratic-led Senate has already pledged to take up some or all of these important reforms.”
Democrats did not have the blue wave they were looking for on Tuesday when it comes to Congress, with Republicans winning in Texas and Iowa. Democrats did, however, flip two seats in Arizona and Colorado.
However, Armentano did express support for Biden’s running mate and now VP Kamala Harris, saying “VP Harris is a lead sponsor on The MORE Act, which would deschedule marijuana — thereby providing individual states, not the federal government — with the primary authority to decide cannabis policy. Joe Biden has also expressed his support for the need to reform our failed marijuana criminal policies.”
Biden and the “War on Drugs”
Biden was a sitting senator in the 1980s and 90s when the war on drugs took place. America was in the middle of a full-blown crack epidemic, not unlike the opioid crisis of today. According to Vox, Biden didn’t just support the harsh laws, mandatory minimum sentences and more that we now call the war on drugs, he authored large parts of it. Biden actually went so far as to suggest President Goerge H.W. Bush’s proposed policies weren’t harsh enough.
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“Quite frankly, the president’s plan is not tough enough, bold enough, or imaginative enough to meet the crisis at hand,” he said. He called not just for harsher punishments for drug dealers but to “hold every drug user accountable.” Biden continued that Bush’s plan, “doesn’t include enough police officers to catch the violent thugs, not enough prosecutors to convict them, not enough judges to sentence them, and not enough prison cells to put them away for a long time.”
However, it appears his stance has softened. Biden has called for decriminalization, moderate rescheduling, medical cannabis legalization, record expungement and the ability to allow states to set their own laws. We’ll get into the details in a bit. Also, in a highly emotional moment of the presidential debates, Biden said he was “proud” of his son, who has overcome addiction. Suggesting that he no longer wants to “hold every drug user accountable.”
His Views on Cannabis Evolve, But Not Too Far
While Joe Biden has been against legalization, according to The Atlantic, he does support decriminalization. Decriminalization would mean fines instead of jail time, and he has also said he’d move to expunge records for using. He’s also said he would remove federal enforcement in states that have legalized the drug. While this isn’t the blowout some democrat strategists told the Atlantic they’d like to see, it is more than President Donald Trump has said or done and is more than former President Barack Obama.
“Joe Biden and Kamala Harris don’t believe anyone should be in jail for drug offenses only, “Symone Sanders, a top advisor to the nominee, said in September 2020.
At a presidential debate with Trump in October 2020, Biden reiterated that no one should be sent to jail for drug use. “They should be going to rehabilitation, not to jail,” he said. “We should fundamentally change the system, and that’s what I’m going to do.”
When attacked by President Trump about his former involvement in the war on drugs, he said that “it was a mistake to pass those laws relating to drugs.”
However, it’s unclear how much effort Biden is willing to commit to ending the prohibition of cannabis, even just decriminalization. In November 2019 the then-candidate found himself in hot water when he called cannabis a “gateway drug” that can lead users to more serious drug addictions, an idea that has been widely discredited.
On the campaign trail, Biden was vocal about being the most evolved president on the topic of cannabis to ever make the ticket, but we’ll have to see what happens once he takes office in January.
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