Joe Biden supports decriminalizing marijuana, a Biden effort spokesman says, however the former vice president isn’t going as far as calling for it to be legalized on the federal level.
“Nobody needs to be in jail for smoking marijuana,” Biden told Republicans in a Tuesday house party in Nashua, New Hampshire.
Asked when the former president supports legalizing marijuana, Andrew Bates, a Biden campaign spokesman, said Biden believes the medication should be decriminalized and decisions on legalization should remain to the condition level.
Related: Some U.S Representatives Want To Legalize Marijuana Nationwide
“As he said [Tuesday], Vice President Biden doesn’t believe anyone should be in jail simply for smoking or possessing marijuana. He supports decriminalizing marijuana and mechanically expunging prior criminal records for marijuana possession, therefore people affected don’t have to figure out how to petition for it or purchase a lawyer,” Bates said. “He would allow states to continue to create their own decisions regarding legalization and might seek to make it much easier to conduct research on marijuana’s negative and positive health impacts by rescheduling it as a schedule two drug,” he said.
Schedule 2 drugs, including cocaine and meth, have “high potential for abuse which may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.” Schedule 2 drugs don’t have accepted medical uses.
Biden’s stance comes as many in the 2020 Democratic area have voiced their support for legalizing marijuana on the national level.
His decriminalization place marks a bit of a shift for Biden, who served as vice president in the Obama government, which didn’t move to decriminalize marijuana, reschedule the medication or openly encourage mechanically expunging of criminal records of marijuana offenses. The government did issue guidelines to not enforce federal anti-marijuana law in states where marijuana was legalized.
“I feel that the idea of focusing significant resources on interdicting or convicting people for smoking marijuana is a waste of our funds,” Biden said in conjunction with TIME in 2014. “That’s different than [legalization]. Our policy for our Administration remains not legalization, and that is [and] has been our policy.”
While in the Senate, Biden, who over the years expressed opposition to legalizing marijuana, was an architect or supporter of tough-on-crime laws, for example, creation of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, also known as the “drug czar,” and establishing mandatory minimum sentences for marijuana. Biden has expressed sorrow for the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine which stemmed from one of those steps, noting that he and former President Barack Obama worked to reduce that disparity.
Legalizing marijuana is a matter that has seen a steady uptick in service over recent years. A Gallup survey published in 2018 found 66% of Americans support legalizing the use of marijuana, up 22% from nearly a decade back. Fifteen states have decriminalized marijuana while 10 others and the District of Columbia have legalized the drug, according to the Marijuana Policy Project.
Many in the Democratic Party primary field have issued full-throated aid for legalizing the medication on the federal level. Earlier this season, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker reintroduced the Marijuana Justice Act, which will legalize marijuana on the national level and expunge the records of people who’ve been charged with a crime for owning or using the drug.
Several Democratic presidential contenders have signed on as cosponsors of the step: Sens. Michael Bennet of Colorado, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro are one of the candidates that also have signaled support for legalization efforts.
In March, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said while he would not pursue legalization to a national level, but he believes the countries should be allowed to move forward. “I wouldn’t ask the federal government to legalize it for everybody,” Hickenlooper said. “But I think where states do legalize marijuana with the voters or through their general meeting, the federal government must get out of the way and allow them to get banking, allow them to look at systems through which you can get this experiment go on successfully.”
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