Biden has always been against cannabis, but his views may change in future
Last month, the former Vice President of the United States (US), Joe Biden, confirmed that he would run for president in the 2020 US election. Cannabis legalisation advocates are dissatisfied with Biden’s announcement, as it comes amid significant progress in the US legal cannabis industry that has seen over half of the country legalise marijuana use in some form, as well half its population now supporting recreational cannabis legalization.
The former senator, who served as vice president under President Barack Obama, helped shape the US drug policy during the heightened era of scaremongering and criminalization. He was among the most prominent Democratic figures in Congress calling for drug penalties for many years.
Biden’s tough-on-drugs record
During the 1980s, lawmakers pushed countless bills to keep people away from using or abusing controlled substances. These were backed by way of propaganda and incarceration threats. Among these lawmakers, Biden was the loudest and most extreme voice in the Democratic party supporting anti-drug measures.
- Biden introduced the Comprehensive Narcotics Control Act of 1986, which called for a cabinet position to develop the federal government’s drug enforcement policies.
- The bill also expanded the Justice Department’s authority to seize assets collected in drug cases, impose mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, increase drug penalties, and add new substances to the CSA (Controlled Substances Act). It also authorized appropriations for the US Department of Defense to enhance drug enforcement assistance and asked the military to create a list of defense facilities to be used as detention facilities for felons.
- In 1989, Biden introduced another bill to make the US propose a program to the United Nations under which debts of member states could be partially forgiven if they use resources to reduce international drug trafficking.
- Another expansive anti-drug bill Biden introduced was the Federal Crime Control Act of 1989 that would have required individuals charged for drug crimes to be held for sentencing or appeal rather than released on bail.
- Biden also proposed the National Drug Control Strategy Act in 1990 that introduced many jarring provisions to deter drug use. It included establishing military-style boot camp prisons to be used as alternative sentencing options for people convicted of drug-related offenses.
- Yet another bill introduced by Biden in 1990 was amended as the Drug Kingpin Death Penalty Act, which involved imposing capital punishment for anyone who murdered someone while committing federal drug offenses, and a mandatory life sentence for the leader of a criminal organization.
- About 20 years later, the senator sponsored a bill to make up for the crack-powder cocaine disparity by increasing the amount of cocaine to qualify individuals for a mandatory minimum sentence. The bill also aimed to eliminate the five-year mandatory minimum for first-time possession of crack cocaine.
- Biden also voted in favor of Anti Drug Abuse Act of 1988 and another massive omnibus bill in 1999, directing the drug czar to take necessary actions to oppose efforts to legalize the use of a substance in Schedule I.
Final words – Joe Biden’s current stance on marijuana legalization
There is no clear answer to what Biden thinks about cannabis legalization now. On his presidential campaign website, he has not made any particular reference about his view on the current cannabis policy. However, the campaign has made veiled references to cannabis policy reform by stating reforms in the criminal justice system and efforts to eliminate sentencing practices that don’t suit the crime, etc.
However, it has been seen that many hardline opponents have changed their views on cannabis in recent years. John Boehner, the former Republican Speaker of the House, remained anti-marijuana during the 2000s. Later, in April 2018, Boehner made a statement that his thinking on cannabis has changed. He emphasized the de-scheduling of cannabis to make it available to those who need it, and to help veterans and reverse the opioid epidemic.
Boehner joined the board of advisors for Acreage Holdings, a multistate dispensary operator. Since then, Acreage has expanded its services to 20 states. Now, Acreage is one of the largest cannabis stocks by market cap. Similarly, John Hickenlooper (R-Colo.), Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and many more have reversed their views, now supporting cannabis legalization.
Thus, we can expect that as the cannabis industry evolves and scientists bring out more surprising benefits of cannabis, chances are that Biden’s opinions on the drug may also evolve. However, for now, the presidential front-runner has given no clear views on cannabis, creating an uncertain landscape for US cannabis proponents.