Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, still opposes federal marijuana legalization — putting him at odds not just with the majority of Democrats but also Americans overall.
In debates, in his criminal justice reform plan, and in his “Plan for Black America,” Biden has said he supports the federal decriminalization of marijuana, which would maintain fines but do away with prison or jail time for possession. But he remains opposed to full legalization, which would remove all penalties and, typically, allow sales for recreational purposes.
The position is more reform-friendly than that of President Donald Trump, who opposes both legalization and decriminalization. But it’s still out-of-step with the views of US voters, especially Democrats.
Based on surveys by Gallup and the Pew Research Center, roughly two-thirds of US adults support marijuana legalization. Support for legalization has increased steadily over the years, up from about 12 percent when Gallup first started polling on the question in 1969.
When US adults are asked about their support for marijuana legalization in greater detail, only 8 percent say it shouldn’t be legal at all, according to Pew; 59 percent say it should be legal for medical and recreational use, while 32 percent say it should be legal for medical use only.
Democrats are even more in favor of legalization, with average support of 78 percent across four generations, according to Gallup and Pew’s surveys, though a majority of Republicans also support it. Based on Pew’s findings, every generation of Democrats surveyed support marijuana legalization.
In other words, Biden is out of step not just with other Democrats, but also a majority of Democrats in his own generation.
The Biden campaign did not respond on the record to Vox’s request for comment.
Supporters of legalization argue it eliminates the harms of marijuana prohibition: the hundreds of thousands of arrests around the US, the racial disparities behind those arrests, and the billions of dollars that flow from the black market for illicit marijuana to drug cartels that then use the money for violent operations around the world. All of this, legalization advocates say, outweigh any potential downsides — such as increased cannabis use — that may come with legalization.