On the question of marijuana, former vice president Joe Biden might seem out of step with the crowd.
There are his competitors in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, many of whom have said they want to legalize the drug. There’s the American public, two-thirds of which says that weed should be legal, according to new data from the Pew Research Center. Break that down into any racial, gender or educational group in the United States, and a majority of the group supports legalization — unlike Biden.
But the 76-year-old Democrat is in tune with at least one demographic: his peers in the silent generation, who, at 35 percent, have what may be one of the lowest percentages of support for marijuana legalization, according to the Pew data released Nov. 14.
This disparity on the topic came into full view at a town hall in Las Vegas over the weekend, when Biden drew some groans from the crowd by saying he wants to see more research on marijuana and suggesting that it may be a “gateway drug” that can lead users to harsher substances.
“The truth of the matter is, there’s not nearly been enough evidence that has been acquired as to whether or not it is a gateway drug,” Biden said. “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.”
Answering an audience question, Biden indicated he is not opposed to the drug entirely. He supports the use of medical marijuana and would decriminalize possession of the drug, he said, adding that he wants individual states to make decisions on recreational use.
Nonetheless, the comments set Biden apart from most of the other Democratic presidential candidates and drew immediate backlash from his party’s left wing — including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), who recently endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).