Joe Biden drew snickers at a debate in September when he started talking about radios and record players. But fellow Democrats seem to be hinting his stand againt legalizing marijuana may be outdated too.
The latest pushback came Sunday night, when Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., tweeted that “Marijuana should be legalized, and drug consumption should be decriminalized. These are matters of public health.”
AOC’s Twitter post — which mirrored the pro-pot stands of Sen. Bernie Sanders, whom she supports for president, as well as Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker and others running for the party’s 2020 nomination — came a day after Biden told a town hall audience in Las Vegas that he still hasn’t seen enough evidence that marijuana is not a gateway drug, so he can’t yet back legalizing weed.
“It’s a debate, and I want a lot more [data] before I legalize it nationally,” Biden said, according to Business Insider. “I want to make sure we know a lot more about the science behind it.”
“It’s a debate, and I want a lot more [data] before I legalize it nationally. I want to make sure we know a lot more about the science behind it.”
Sanders said Oct. 24 he would legalize the drug by executive order within the first 100 days of his administration should he win the White House, Fox News reported.
Last year, Sanders’ home state of Vermont legalized possession of one ounce of pot and letting each adult resident grow two plants for personal use. He has long been a supporter of decriminalizing marijuana nationwide and argued criminalization of the drug has ravaged communities of color and created an unequal incarceration rate.
“Too many lives were ruined due to the disastrous criminalization of marijuana,” Sanders wrote in a tweet announcing his plan.
Biden, however, spoke in favor of a more cautious approach. He said states should be able to legalize marijuana if they want but added he wouldn’t overturn federal law right away.
In addition, he supports medical marijuana and believes possession of the substance “should not be a crime,” the Business Insider report said.
Much of Biden’s 40-year Senate career took place during the federal government’s War on Drugs, which included harsh criminal penalties for nonviolent drug users, Business Insider reported.
The former vice president also said in a June campaign speech that he supported expunging past convictions for possession.
But contrary to Biden’s Las Vegas comments, several national organizations say there is no solid evidence to support the claim that using marijuana leads to the use of harder drugs, the report said. A 1999 Institute of Medicine report said marijuana “typically precedes rather than follows initiation of other illicit drug use,” but it “does not appear to be a gateway drug to the extent that it is the cause or even that it is the most significant predictor of serious drug abuse; that is, care must be taken not to attribute cause to association.”
The National Institute on Drug Abuse says that research shows “the majority of people who use marijuana do not go on to use other, ‘harder’ substances,” and drug use can be affected by numerous other biological and environmental factors, the report continued.
The majority of current candidates openly support nationwide legalization.
Ten states and the District of Columbia already have legalized recreational marijuana, with only nine states where the drug remains fully illegal. Most states either have decriminalized it or have allowed it to be sold for medical uses.
A recent Gallup poll found 66 percent of Americans support fully legalizing marijuana, almost double the number from 2005 when only 35 percent supported the move.
The sentiment across the country has been reflected among the 2020 Democrats with all supporting at least some form of legalization or decriminalization of the drug.
While Sanders became the first candidate to lay out an extensive plan for legalizing marijuana, fellow candidates Warren and Booker as well as Sen. Kamala Harris of California have supported the Marijuana Justice Act. Introduced by Booker, the legislation would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and expunge existing cannabis-related criminal records.