One of the problems facing presumed Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is his “decriminalization” stance on cannabis. He says he knows a lot of “weed smokers,” and he strongly advocates that none of them should be arrested for doing it.
That’s good. Yet he doesn’t want it legalized, which means it would still be a crime for someone to sell it to those same people. You can use it, but the person who sells it to you is a criminal? Does that make any sense?
I don’t think so. Creating policy around the idea that smoking cannabis is OK but selling it isn’t, fails all logic. Biden is clear about not arresting anyone for using cannabis. But, he says, more studies are necessary—“we need the science first,” he claims—to find out whether cannabis might be harmful to young brains, before it is legalized.
While it’s true that we do need more research, especially on the subject of developing brains, the argument fails to acknowledge that there has been a decline in teen use in legal marijuana states. Decriminalization will never work, but legalization does.
And his anti-legalization stance won’t help Biden win the presidency—in fact, it could have the opposite effect. The federal government has done everything possible to thwart serious scientific cannabis studies for decades, and though the restrictions are loosening, we’re years away from serious study results. Which means cartels and criminals will continue to dominate the market while Biden fiddles waiting for results that might never come.
Leave the details to the states, he says. Perhaps he hasn’t noticed, but a number of states have already done that, including Colorado, where adults have been buying it in retail stores under fairly strict supervision for more than six years. It hasn’t been perfect, but few argue that we should return to the days when cartels and illegal smuggling governed the trade. Millions of Americans use cannabis, and to make that transaction illegal just makes no sense.
Biden for years pushed the failed concept that cannabis is a gateway drug that leads users to harder substances. He’s finally dumped that argument, but his decriminalization plan is just as backward, and progressively behind even many Republicans who support legalization. Decriminalization is still the War on Drugs, and it’s still a failure.
Biden says that he has a Vision for America. It’s encouraging that since becoming the presumptive nominee he has included people like Sen. Bernie Sanders in policy discussions. But if he wants to convince us he’s a better alternative to Donald Trump, and that he truly wants to listen to the “political revolution” we saw during the primary, then he’d be wise to endorse Sanders’ promise to legalize marijuana.