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He Ain’t Budden: Joe Biden’s Stance on Cannabis Legislation

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By: burgundy bug

Former Vice President of the United States Joe Biden speaking with attendees at the Presidential Gun Sense Forum hosted by Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines, Iowa
Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore

Source: Joe Biden | Gage Skidmore

When asked if his stance on recreational cannabis had changed during a town hall in Las Vegas, Nev. on Saturday, former vice president Joe Biden said he wouldn’t legalize it nationally until there was more evidence cannabis isn’t a “gateway drug.” Okay, boomer.

Yet, recent research shows that cannabis use is associated with a decrease in the use of opioids, and the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control says, “The majority of people who use marijuana do not go on to use other, ‘harder’ substances.”

However, the CDC does agree further research is needed to be 100 percent certain cannabis isn’t a gateway drug.

Biden on Cannabis

Former Vice President Joe Biden holds a community event at Matt Kelly Elementary School in Las Vegas.

Posted by Fox News on Saturday, November 16, 2019

“Look, I think states should be able to make a judgment to legalize marijuana – I think that’s okay,” Biden said. “The truth of the matter is there has not been nearly enough evidence that has been acquired as to whether or not it is a gateway drug. It’s a debate and I want a lot more before we legalize it nationally.”

Biden then added he would push for rescheduling cannabis from a Schedule I drug to Schedule II to allow for further research on the matter.

“I support use of medical marijuana,” he continued. “But here’s the deal: it should not be a crime. Anyone who has been convicted of use of marijuana and put in jail should be immediately released, their records should be immediately expunged – and it is not irrational to do more scientific investigation whether there is anything that relates to it being a gateway drug or not. I don’t know enough to know whether it is.”

“It should not be a crime. It should be a civil penalty to the extent that it exists in states that don’t chose to legalize.”

Former vice president Joe Bidden (D)

The audience broke the silence that fell upon the room as Biden tip-toed into his moderate stance on the legalization of recreational cannabis use to applaud his sentiment on decriminalizing it.

“Nationally, I’m not prepared to push for the legalization,” Biden said. “Medical marijuana, yes. But the legalization of marijuana for recreational use is one that I need more data to make that judgment. But no one should go to jail for it, period.”

While answering the question, Biden briefly acknowledged his work on the drug side of the issue, which dates back to much earlier in his career.

Biden’s role in the “War on Drugs”

Source: How Biden Led The War on Drugs | Newsy

Just 10 years ago, Biden said he believed legalizing cannabis “would be a mistake,” as seen in an ABC news clip.

Although it appears Biden has now softened slightly on “The War on Drugs,” including his position on criminalizing cannabis, his caution hasn’t wavered.

Cannabis As a Gateway Drug

The fear of cannabis being a gateway drug is nothing new. This rhetoric can be traced back to the “reefer madness” era of the 1930s, followed by the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937.

Read: Cannabis Culture: More Than Just Blowing Smoke

The Burgundy Zine

Recently, the medical marijuana movement has posed a challenge to this reefer madness ideology. A 2017 Public Library of Science study observed a decrease in prescription opioid use for chronic pain and an improvement of life quality in New Mexico’s medical marijuana patients.

“The clinically and statistically significant evidence of an association between MCP enrollment and opioid prescription cessation and reductions, and improved quality of life warrants further investigations on cannabis as a potential alternative to prescription opioids for treating chronic pain,” the PLOS study concluded.

A 2018 Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research review further supported this conclusion, adding, “The compelling nature of these data and the relative safety profile of cannabis warrant further exploration of cannabis as an adjunct or alternative treatment for opioid use disorder.”

In turn, many experts believe cannabis legalization could decrease the rate of opioid mortalities. A 2019 Injury Epidemiology study found an eight percent decrease in opioid overdoses and a seven percent reduction in opioids dispensed across 16 states.

Although the study says these results are “insignificant,” it’s still a decrease. Medical cannabis could save a few lives, at the least, and improve the lives of others, as seen in the PLOS study.

As for cannabis’ relation to other drugs, the clinical results are foggy, at best. While there’s a slew of empirical evidence that cannabis users don’t seek out other substances (just go ask your local stoner or CBD-obsessed in-law), a 2018 Drug and Alcohol Dependence study yielded mixed results among adolescents.

Researchers saw a decrease in substance use in eighth-graders, no significant change in tenth-graders, and an increase in substance use among twelfth-graders.

That isn’t to say cannabis legalization necessarily inclined twelfth-graders to try other substances. Perhaps there were external factors, such as peer-pressure, socio-economic influences, genetic predisposition, or even innate curiosity. There’s no way of knowing for sure.

American Attitudes on Cannabis Legalization

Devil’s lettuce” or not, 67 percent of Americans support the legalization of cannabis, according to a 2019 Pew Research Center poll.

  • 59 percent support legalization for recreational and medicinal use.
  • 32 percent support legalization for medicinal use only.
  • 8 percent would like cannabis to remain illegal in all circumstances.

Opposition to legalization has been on a sharp decline since the early-00’s, pressuring legislators to rethink the federal and state stance of cannabis.

As of Oct. 2019, cannabis is legalized for medicinal or recreational use in more than half of the United States, as seen in a DISA Global Solutions map.

In Conclusion

We the People want legal weed, and weed for the people we’ll probably see in our lifetime. While Biden’s sentiment arises from a place of caution, he said he supports medical cannabis and decriminalization of its use.

However, he’s not the only democrat with a hat in the ring. There are 16 other Democratic candidates still in the race, according to the New York Times.

11 candidates say “legalize it,” three candidates say it’s up to the states, and one candidate – Biden – says “decriminalize it,” Politico reports.

Your move, Biden.

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burgundy bug


A cynical optimist and mad scientist undercover, burgundy bug is the editor, graphic designer, webmaster, social media manager, and primary photographer for The Burgundy Zine. Entangled in a web of curiosity, burgundy bug’s work embodies a wide variety of topics including: neuroscience, psychology, ecology, biology, cannabis, reviews, fashion, entertainment, and politics. You can learn more about working with burgundy bug by visiting her portfolio website: burgundybug.com

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