The trouble with Joe Biden’s stance on legal weed

It may be fun to watch the presidential hopeful stumble through questions on marijuana legalization, but it seems he’s still fighting the War on Drugs

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Joe Biden has worked hard in his post-Obama life to cultivate a cool uncle vibe.

But the jig is up with Uncle Joe on weed, which has become a burning issue in the Democratic party’s presidential primaries.

While other candidates have put forward proposals to right the wrongs of prohibition, weed has become an issue dogging the Biden campaign.

The trouble started a couple of weeks back while Biden was on a campaign stop in Las Vegas, Nevada, — in a legal state, no less — and Uncle Joe started riffing.

“The truth of the matter is, there has not nearly been enough evidence that has been acquired as to whether or not it is a gateway drug,” he said. (There has, and it isn’t.) “It’s a debate, and I want a lot more before I legalize it nationally. I want to make sure we know a lot more about the science behind it.”

Oof. The science, obviously, doesn’t back Biden’s claims. People who smoke pot may be more likely to dabble in other drugs at some point in their life. But there’s next to no evidence to support the idea that pot use inevitably leads to hard drugs like cocaine or heroin. On the contrary, there’s growing evidence that pot is an effective substitute for those addicted to harder drugs, in particular opioids and maybe even alcohol.

Biden’s rivals had a little fun with his gateway comments. “I thought he might have been high when you said it,” joked Senator Cory Booker. That’s not saying much, either.

Biden tried to walk back his statements, but got a bit caught in the weeds. “Whether it is a gateway drug, but whether or not it, when used in other combinations, may have a negative impact on people overcoming other problems, including in fact on young people in terms of brain development, or a whole range of things that are beyond my expertise,” he said.

You can bust on Biden all day long for the wacky things he’s been saying about weed because they are legitimately bonkers things to say knowing what we now know about the fallout from prohibition.

But why hasn’t that message gotten through to the man who would be president? Simple. Biden is still fighting the War On Drugs.

Biden has been a fervent anti-drug guy for much of his political career. While Ronald Regan was in office, Biden was among the worst when it came to ramping up the rhetoric.

“We’re going to have to worry about getting governors to go out in the mountainsides with flame-throwers, with [town mayors] next to them, dealing with it in their backyard,” he said in 1989.

“It’s about time we stop kidding the American people and our constituents about what we’re going to be able to do legislatively in order to end this scourge. The honest truth is we have no drug strategy in America. It does not exist. It has not existed.”

Not in Biden’s head, however.

While he’s paying a little more lip service these days to the changing attitudes toward marijuana, it wasn’t that long ago that Biden was the driving force behind some of the most aggressive War on Drugs policies in American history.

In 2002, Biden sponsored the RAVE Act (Reducing Americans’ Vulnerability to Ecstasy Act). The Act would have allowed cops to throw rave promoters, and even harm reduction workers (including trip-sitters who hand out free water at raves), in jail for up to 20 years. It’s hard to imagine a more misanthropic view of American safety.

So while it’s fun to watch Biden stumble seemingly harmlessly through questions about marijuana, it should be deeply worrying to American voters for a guy who is touting his experience as his main appeal.

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