Former vice president and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden expressed support for federal cannabis reforms in a recording obtained by Politico and published on Thursday. Biden’s comments on the campaign trail in New Hampshire were recorded by Don Murphy of the Marijuana Policy Project.
In the recording, Murphy asks Biden about his “hawkish” cannabis policies. In his response, the former vice president expresses support for decriminalization, medical cannabis legalization, and criminal justice reform, ultimately concluding that the U.S. is “at the point where it has to be, basically, legalized” but that he was “not prepared to do it” while “serious medical people” still have concerns over its effects.
“First of all, we should decriminalize marijuana and I’ve been pushing that for a while, period. … Number two, medical marijuana should be approved. … Number three, anyone convicted of a marijuana offense past, present, or in the future have their record wiped clean so they can answer on any sworn affidavit they’ve never been arrested for a crime related to marijuana. … Either, as you know, there are medical people who say we should study it more to make sure that there aren’t other effects – it’s not a gateway drug, it’s not a gateway drug, I think science matters – … And I would have the [National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control] looking at it.” – Biden, in a recorded interview, via Politico
Biden’s campaign told Politico that he was “restating his cannabis policy” on the recording. Last November, Biden said during a Las Vegas, Nevada town hall that he wouldn’t legalize cannabis due to concerns about whether it’s a gateway drug; although he did express support for federal decriminalization and medical cannabis legalization during his remarks at that event and did walk back the gateway drug comments a few weeks later.
Among the frontrunners for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has indicated he would legalize cannabis federally on his first day in office, while former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg supports the decriminalization of all drugs, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has sponsored the Marijuana Justice Act which includes cannabis legalization and criminal justice-related reforms.