- Sen. Cory Booker.
Sen. Cory Booker ripped Joe Biden during Wednesday’s Democratic presidential debate for saying he doesn’t support marijuana legalization.
“This week I hear him literally say that ‘I don’t think we should legalize marijuana.’ I thought you might have been high when you said it,” Booker said to applause and laughter.
Booker was referring to Biden’s unpopular suggestion Sunday that marijuana may be a “gateway drug” and should not be legalized until further research is done.
The exchange came in the middle of a debate about appealing to the Black community. The war on drugs has disproportionately impacted “Black and brown people,” Booker said.
“Marijuana in our country is already legal for privileged people,” Booker said. “There are people in Congress right now that admit to smoking marijuana, while there are people — our kids are in jail right now for those drug crimes.”
Biden responded that he supports decriminalizing marijuana and expunging pot-related crimes.
“But I do think it makes sense, based on data, that we should study what the long-term effects are for the use of marijuana,” Biden added. “That’s all it is.”
Biden’s position on marijuana comes at a time when support for pot legalization is at an all-time high. A new poll by Pew Research Center found that 67 percent of Americans support legalization.
All of the top Democratic presidential candidates have said they support legalization.
Recreational marijuana is legal in 11 states, including Michigan.
Biden’s insistence that marijuana may be a “gateway drug” conflicts with research.
“The majority of people who use marijuana do not go on to use other, 'harder' substances,” according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse.
An Institute of Medicine report found that marijuana “does not appear to be a gateway drug to the extent that it is the cause or even that it is the most significant predictor of serious drug abuse; that is, care must be taken not to attribute cause to association.”
Biden’s position on marijuana has softened since he was a senator. In 1986, Biden introduced anti-drug legislation that would have imposed mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug convictions and created a drug czar position.
Biden also was a zealous supporter of the notorious 1994 crime bill, which led to the mass incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders.
In 2010, Biden said it would be a “mistake to legalize” marijuana because “I still believe it’s a gateway drug."
Biden’s old-fashioned take on marijuana could hurt his chances of winning the nomination.
Stay on top of Detroit news and views. Sign up for our weekly issue newsletter delivered each Wednesday.