The American people are ready to legalize cannabis. Medical marijuana is legal in 33 states and D.C., and 9 of those have voted to legalize on the recreational level as well.

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A recent poll by the General Social Survey found that 61% of those surveyed were in favor of cannabis legalization. Compared to results from previous years, that’s a huge increase in approval.

The 2020 election is already around the corner, and at least 24 Democratic candidates are vying for the presidency. Positions on popular issues, like marijuana legalization, could be deciding factors for young, progressive voters across the nation who are seeking a candidate that truly represents their values.

Joe Biden Enters The Ring

Biden and Obama in the White House Source: Pete Souza, former Chief Official White House Photographer

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Former Vice President Joe Biden is considered by many to be a shoo-in for the 2020 Democratic ticket.

Biden, however, favors decriminalization and efforts to reschedule cannabis, but not actual legalization.

On Tuesday last week, Biden told New Hampshire voters, “Nobody should be in jail for smoking marijuana.”

Andrew Bates, a spokesperson for Biden, said in a statement to CNN that Biden “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. He would allow states to continue to make their own choices regarding legalization and would seek to make it easier to conduct research on marijuana’s positive and negative health impacts by rescheduling it as a schedule 2 drug.”

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Said Bates following Biden’s recent comment, “As he said [Tuesday], Vice President Biden does not believe anyone should be in jail simply for smoking or possessing marijuana.”

Cannabis is currently classified as a Schedule I drug in the United States, which means that, at least according to the government, marijuana has no recognized medical benefit.

This contradicts a growing body of research on a wide range of uses for medical cannabis, including the treatment of epilepsy, chronic pain and PTSD.

Biden's Stance On Cannabis May Not Be Enough

Biden’s old-school attitude towards legalized cannabis may end up disadvantaging him in the upcoming presidential race.

Drug Policy Action is a nonprofit organization working to end the war on drugs by promoting “drug policies based on science, compassion, health, and human rights.”

In an interview with Marijuana Moment, Director of National Affairs for Drug Policy Action, Michael Collins, said, “It’s not enough to casually support marijuana decriminalization. That’s a 2008 position. Biden should recognize that marijuana must be legalized through the lens of social justice, with expungement and industry diversity as the key planks of any position. That’s what most of the other candidates supports and it’s what the base wants so there’s no excuse.”

Executive Director of NORML, Erik Altieri, expressed similar sentiment towards Biden’s stance on marijuana, saying, “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.”