Cannabis advocates took aim at former Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday, just hours after he launched his 2020 presidential campaign in a bid to unseat Donald Trump. Biden, who immediately became the presumed frontrunner in the Democratic primary according to a number of polls, has a less than stellar history when it comes to cannabis, crime, and the War on Drugs — a fact that many advocates were quick to note.
“Joe Biden has an abysmal record when it comes to marijuana law reform, ending our failed war on drugs, and addressing mass incarceration,” said NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri in a pre-written statement. “Biden’s views are far out of step with the American public and he holds the worst record on cannabis-related policy of any individual currently running for the Democratic or Republican nomination.”
A number of outlets noted Biden’s long history of centrism when it comes to the drug war, citing his push for the creation of the office of the “Drug Czar” back in 1982, or even going as far as to quote his opposition to legalization in 1974 (at a time when one would be hard-pressed to find a politician in favor of cannabis reform).
More recently, however, Biden has had to atone for his role in authoring the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, the infamous Clinton-era crime bill that caused the American prison population to grow exponentially over the past 25 years. That bill targeted poor people and people of color harder than anyone else, decimating minority communities in ways that are still being felt today.
“He needs to address his history as one of the architects of many of our nation’s draconic drug policies, apologize for these mistakes, and present a plan to right the wrongs that criminalization has wrought upon millions of people, principally those in minority and poor communities, if he wants to even be considered by anyone who prioritizes real criminal justice reform,” concluded Altieri in his statement.
While Biden has yet to announce his position on cannabis legalization or put forth any major policy on the issue, he has, in recent months, began to reevaluate his legislative past.
“I haven’t always been right,” Biden said in a speech earlier this year, speaking about criminal justice reform. “I know we haven’t always gotten things right, but I’ve always tried.”
Moreover, just as he was leaving the Senate for the Vice President’s office, Biden did show support for reducing the sentencing disparity between powder and crack cocaine, an idea he helped usher into law two years later as the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010. And it’s only fair to note that under President Obama, Biden was part of the most cannabis-friendly administration to-date.