Joe Biden’s Cannabis Policy Would Be A Gift To Donald Trump In A General Election
Biden, the current frontrunner for the Democratic Party nomination for president, recently made headlines by declaring his support for decriminalizing and rescheduling marijuana—a major evolution on the issue of drug policy reform for a politician who has traditionally been an active supporter of the War on Drugs.
In May, a Biden spokesperson told CNN that the former vice president “supports decriminalizing marijuana and automatically expunging prior criminal records for marijuana possession…” The spokesperson went on to say that Biden supports the rights of states to continue making their own choices regarding legalization and that he’d support rescheduling cannabis to a Schedule II drug to make it easier to conduct medical research on cannabis.
Biden likely thought this position would help him with Democratic primary voters. Instead, he was widely criticized for not going far enough on the issue of cannabis-policy reform.
His evolution from prohibitionist to tepid decriminalization supporter puts him far behind other Democratic primary challengers like Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, and Kirsten Gillibrand, all of whom have sponsored legislation to dramatically reform our nation’s marijuana laws, as well as others like Kamala Harris and Beto O’Rourke who have been outspoken about their support for reform. Biden’s position puts him in line with Barack Obama in 2008 and Hillary Clinton in 2016, while the Democratic Party has largely evolved beyond such an incrementalistic approach to marijuana reform.
If Biden wins his party’s nomination, his out-of-date position on cannabis could be more harmful in the general election. Last year, I detailed the political case for President Trump to support marijuana policy reform in advance of the 2020 election. Doing so would be a way to gain support among younger voters, particularly those who may turn out to support likely legalization ballot initiatives in swing states like Arizona, Ohio, and Florida, or who support their legalization laws in swing states like Colorado, Nevada, and Michigan.