With former Vice President Joseph Biden entering the presidential race this week, there’s been much scrutiny on his older statements. Some of them, on issues related to crime especially, Biden’s previous positions are somewhat at odds with current Democratic views on some issues.
On Friday, an old quote of Biden’s, in which he referred to marijuana as a “gateway drug,” went semi-viral on Twitter. The tweet, from the Twitter account of the website Marijuana Moment, states that “Presidential Candidate Joe Biden Stands On Marijuana: ‘I still believe it’s a gateway drug. I’ve spent a lot of my life as chairman of the Judiciary Committee dealing with this. I think it would be a mistake to legalize.'”
The quote by Biden is accurate, but it’s also nine years old. Biden said that about marijuana in 2010 when he was vice president. The tweet from Marijuana Moment placed the quote in the present tense, indicating that the quote was of more recent vintage.
While he has not brought up the issue in the opening days of his presidential candidacy, Biden does not appear to have softened his opposition to marijuana legalization. According to a Rolling Stone story this week, advocates for liberalization of marijuana laws are opposed to Biden’s candidacy, and even consider him the worst candidate in the Democratic race on that particular issue.
Several Democratic candidates for the 2020 nomination, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Cory Booker, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, have called for varying degrees of marijuana decriminalization. Even Sen. Kamala Harris, a former prosecutor who has spent much of her career pushing a “tough on crime” imagine, is for decriminalization. Booker has even introduced a piece of legislation called the Marijuana Justice Act, which would legalize the drug nationwide.
Where Presidential Candidate Joe Biden Stands On Marijuana: "I still believe it's a gateway drug. I've spent a lot of my life as chairman of the Judiciary Committee dealing with this. I think it would be a mistake to legalize." https://t.co/Jw0DJqzBIv pic.twitter.com/m2INPc76gL— Marijuana Moment (@MarijuanaMoment) April 25, 2019
Per CNBC, 61 percent of Americans believe that marijuana should be legal. This indicates that attitudes towards that drug have softened considerably since the 1980s when all-out drug prohibition was the consensus attitude of the federal government.
Some social media users- including David Simon, the co-creator of The Wire – said that they had taken down retweets referencing the tweet about Biden upon realizing that the quote was from 2010.
The episode indicates that Biden’s longevity in politics, and his worldview being shaped by the attitudes and consensus of a different time, is an issue that may come up more than once as his presidential candidacy ramps up.