Joe Biden: The Lone Democrat Against Marijuana Legalization

Ellie McFarland | @El_FarAwayLand

Since the War on Drugs began in the early 70s, there have been people, interest groups, and politicians working to bring an end to it. As early as the 1990s, states were legalizing medical marijuana usage thanks to largely Democratic politicians. Pot legalization has been a contentious topic in all American elections since. Although Democrats spearhead the issue, more and more people on both sides are giving the go-ahead for pot legalization. However, Former Vice President Joe Biden starkly breaks with this Democratic consensus on weed.

Biden vs. Weed

Although many Democrats see him as a safe and sane repeat of Obama, Joe Biden is actually quite different. Markedly, something that he strays from, and which the Democratic party has held a monopoly on, is marijuana legalization. Unlike war, certain social issues, and welfare programs, the legalization (or at least decriminalization) of weed is a pretty uncontroversial issue. In the Democratic primary, within which there are now 24 candidates, all but Biden want to decriminalize and/or legalize marijuana.

As one of the top polling candidates, his constituents would expect that he’s one of the best representatives of the Democratic Party. However, the other democratic nominees polling well include Harris, Warren, and Sanders; they all support legalizing weed. This is consistent down the line to every other nominee, including Delaney, who is notoriously “bipartisan” and has flip-flopped on various party-line issues. 

Biden’s Anti-Legalization Rhetoric Doesn’t Make Him a Maverick

This is of course not to say that in order to be a good politician, one must act consistently with their party’s voting history. If this were true, nothing could get done. No communication or compromise between Republicans and Democrats could ever happen. But there is a clear reason why weed legalization is a consensus on the Democratic side and is quickly becoming one for Republicans, too. 

Yet, the benefits of marijuana legalization won’t convince Joe Biden because unlike some of the fresher faces in Congress, he isn’t in politics for even the veneer of “helping the public”. Biden is a career politician who was in office when weed legalization was an unpopular and niche issue which not even many Democrats fell in line with. People associate Democrats with weed legalization not because they are inherently more correct, but because it was deliberately associated with the hippy and antiwar movements, which are dually associated with Democrats.

Popular Opinions: Not Just “Jumping on a Bandwaggon”

The truth is, the consensus on the legalization of weed in the Democratic party is a great one. This is precisely the reason it’s catching on in the current decade. But Joe Biden has left himself behind, despite the morality of weed legalization and despite the intense (although immoral) tax benefits of legalization.

It isn’t because he has strong sober morals or is deeply religious and opposed to all substance use for every American citizen. It’s because it’s both more profitable and less risky for Biden to resist necessary change. It is simply more convenient for Biden work against the improvement of people’s lives than it is for him to buck up and side with what is correct and is becoming easier to finally change.


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