Former Vice President Joe Biden said through a spokesperson that he supports decriminalizing cannabis.
The 2020 Democratic Presidential candidate, who is known for opposing legalizing recreational cannabis, recently said that he also supports expunging the records of those with cannabis possession charges and rescheduling cannabis under federal law to a Schedule II drug.
“Vice President Biden does not believe anyone should be in jail simply for smoking or possessing marijuana. He supports decriminalizing marijuana and automatically expunging prior criminal records for marijuana possession, so those affected don’t have to figure out how to petition for it or pay for a lawyer,” said Andrew Bates, a Biden campaign spokesman.
Biden’s current stance on cannabis marks a remarkable shift in opinion from his time as a senator, when he crafted some of the strictest anti-drug laws including mandatory minimum sentences for cannabis. Biden also declined to pursue decriminalization or rescheduling during his time in the Obama administration. Biden was seen applauding an anti-cannabis speech at an opioid forum, signaling that he still has some of the same feelings towards cannabis he used to.
Cannabis legalization has seen a growing rise in supporters over the years. A 2018 poll found that 66 percent of Americans support legalizing cannabis, up 22 percent from 10 years ago. Most of Biden’s opponents in the primary have already fully embraced cannabis legalization and have sponsored or cosponsored legislation to completely remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act. As the Democratic primary race continues, cannabis advocates will wait to see if Biden will fully embrace legalization.
“While Biden’s latest comments on marijuana represent an evolution away from the stronger prohibitionist comments he made in the past, they are far too timid to truly address the issue at hand and still leave him lagging far behind his fellow primary competitors, many of whom are true leaders on ending our nation’s failed prohibition,” said Executive Director of NORML Erik Altieri.