Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden recently voiced his opposition to legalizing marijuana at the federal level and said the matter should be left up to the states. Although Biden said he supports marijuana use for medical cases and doesn't think possession should be a crime, he suggested there's a lack of evidence on whether it's a gateway drug or not and believes more research is needed before making the drug legal across the country.
"It is not irrational to do more scientific investigation to determine, which we have not done significantly enough, whether or not there are any things that relate to whether it's a gateway drug or not," Biden said on Saturday, per Newsweek.
Research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse appears to conflict with Biden's suggestion — it found that marijuana usage doesn't act as a gateway to harder drugs. The research also suggested that drug use is a complex process that can be triggered by various factors. But despite Biden's opposition to marijuana legalization at the federal level, his campaign does focus on reformed criminal justice policies to address gender, racial, and income-based disparities in the criminal justice system. For example, Biden's plan opens the possibility of expunging the records of individuals convicted of non-violent, marijuana-related offenses.
Regardless, progressive Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took to Twitter hours after Biden's remarks to voice her opinion on the matter and also took things a step further.
"Marijuana should be legalized, and drug consumption should be decriminalized. These are matters of public health."Per Marijuana Moment, Ocasio-Cortez has previously been open when it comes to the issue of drug use and research. In one example, she introduced an amendment to a bill that attempted to pave the way for research into the potential therapeutic benefit of Schedule I drugs, such as psilocybin and LSD. However, the House rejected the measure on the floor. Thus far, Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, and Elizabeth Warren have vowed to legalize marijuana nationwide if they are elected president. Others, including Pete Buttigieg, Andrew Yang, Tulsi Gabbard, and Julian Castro, have also expressed support for the legalization of the substance.
Like Biden, Steve Bullock, John Delaney, and Wayne Messam believe that the issue of marijuana legalization should be dealt with at the state level. States that have passed marijuana legalization laws in some form include California, Colorado, Michigan, Nevada, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maine, and Oregon.
On the topic of decriminalizing other drugs, Yang is in favor of decriminalizing opioids and has promoted the use of safe injection sites. Other candidates, such as Buttigieg and Gabbard, are in favor of decriminalizing drugs beyond cannabis. As for Sanders, who Ocasio-Cortez has thrown her support behind and campaigned with, he said in 2016 that he's "not there yet" on broader drug decriminalization.