The Democratic presidential contest is getting fairly contentious when it comes to federal cannabis policy. And with House Democrats moving forward with a slew of marijuana-related bills, if one of these Democrats are able to oust President Donald Trump there’s a real possibility one of them could bring an end to the decades-long federal prohibition on cannabis.
In the most recent presidential primary debate Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) unleashed on former Vice President Joe Biden for his past record on criminal justice issues, along with some of his recent statements about weed, like when Biden told Nevada voters at a town hall earlier this month that he believes marijuana is a “gateway drug.”
“This week, I hear him literally say that I don’t think we should legalize marijuana — I thought you might have been high when you said it,” Booker said to some laughter and some groans.
“Let me tell you …marijuana in our country is already legal for privileged people,” Booker continued. “The war on drugs has been a war on black and brown people.”
Back in the eighties, then senator-Biden helped usher through the tough on crime legislation that codified the mandatory minimum drug sentences that have ravaged many urban communities for decades now.
“Let me just say this,” Booker added. “With more African Americans under criminal supervision in America than all the slaves since 1850, do not roll up into communities and not talk directly to issues that are going to relate to the liberation of children, because there are people in Congress right now that admit to smoking marijuana, while…our kids are in jail right now for those drug crimes.”
While Biden has had a conversion of late on marijuana specifically – and even on drug sentencing generally – his campaign’s carefully crafted policy statements have sometimes come at odds with what he says on the stump.
“I think we should decriminalize marijuana, period,” Biden told Booker, trying to set the record straight. “And I think everyone — anyone who has a record — should be let out of jail, their records expunged, be completely zeroed out.”
Still, Biden contends the jury is still out on marijuana.
“But I do think it makes sense, based on data, that we should study what the long-term effects are for the use of marijuana,” Biden added. “That’s all it is.”
Those aren’t the only two candidates who have verbally sparred over federal cannabis policy and past marijuana records. In a previous debate, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) went after Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) for her past record when she was California’s attorney general.
Gabbard said Harris, “put over 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations and laughed about it when she was asked if she ever smoked marijuana.”
But Harris retorted that she also helped spearhead other important efforts as attorney general, like overhauling the state’s criminal justice system “which became a national model for the work that needs to be done. And I am proud of that work.”
“And I am proud of making a decision to not just give fancy speeches or be in a legislative body and give speeches on the floor but actually doing the work, of being in the position to use the power that I had to reform a system that is badly in need of reform,” Harris said.
Even if other candidates haven’t sparred as openly over cannabis issues, most of them are embracing the issue in a way unseen before in American politics
“The fact that these candidates are, for the most part, climbing over each other to have the most forward-thinking cannabis policy is indicative of how far we’ve come on this issue,” Morgan Fox, of the National Cannabis Industry Association, told Wikileaf. “We’ve come a long way in a short time.”
That’s why Wikileaf compiled a comprehensive list of where all of the top Democratic presidential contenders stand on marijuana currently, where they lied down on it in the past and of what some are promising to do if American voters decide to put them in the White House. The list can be found here: Here’s where the 2020 presidential contenders stand on marijuana.