"Meaningless". This is how some important figures in the American cannabis sector defined the cannabis policy of the Democratic candidate Joe Biden when interviewed by the website Marijuana Moment. Biden’s position has moved far from Bernie Sanders’s, his former rival to become the Democratic candidate for the Presidency of the United States, and who announced last February that, if elected, he would legalize cannabis in the 50 states that make up the country on his first day of term in the White House.
His pledge was risky at the time but it was a clear statement of intent during the presidential primaries. The initiative put the bet on the legalization of cannabis of the most socialist candidate to ever run for office back on the table. His proposal included a regulation of the cannabis industry that would benefit the communities that had been most affected by the drug policy carried out so far.
Nevertheless, in the end Sanders was not chosen to represent the Democratic Party in the next general elections this November, and Biden, the final winner, takes a very different stance on this issue. In fact, Biden, who was the Vice president of the United States during the eight years of Barack Obama's presidency and a member of the Senate for Delaware for 26 years, was also the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee from 1987 to 1995. During this period the current candidate promoted a policy of criminalization and gave an unofficial name to the Violent Crime Control Act and the Law Enforcement Act of 1994 —the “Biden Crime Law”—. This law added 60 more types of criminal offenses that could be punished with the death penalty, being drug trafficking one of them.
Before this, in the 1980s, Biden was one of the politicians who acted forcefully to lead the push for anti-drug measures. "We need someone to make decisions" he remarked in 1982 about the "War on drugs" policy of the then President Ronald Reagan. "The commitment is miniscule in dollar terms”, he added. By then, Biden had introduced a bill that enforced the Department of Justice capabilities to run drug seizures, impose mandatory minimum sentences for crimes related to the possession of certain amounts of controlled substances, including marijuana, or increase its penalties. The budget of the Department of Defense for anti-drug actions was also increased by this action, foreseeing what would later become a fierce fight against drugs using not only police force but also other heavily militarized law enforcement means.
The current position of the Democratic candidate has evolved considerably over the past four decades, but not as much as society’s in the United States. According to a study carried out by Quinnipiac University (Connecticut) and made public in December 2019, more than half of American voters would favor legalization of recreational cannabis, a number that would reach two-thirds for voters under the age of 29. Despite this, what Biden has expressed so far on the matter is that, to this day, he supports decriminalization, especially the removal of criminal records for low-level marijuana possession, and the revision of the Controlled Substances Act for a reclassification of the plant, since it is still included in the category of most harmful and dangerous drugs, along with heroin. The required strict control of the substance prevents the regularization of its medical use. Biden supports the legalization of cannabis for medical uses, calling on states to regulate on the matter.
According to Marijuana Moment, Biden's attitude against the legalization of marijuana has led to clashes between the candidate and a large majority of Democrats, only one month before the presidential elections in the United States.