Biden’s Drug Policies Are Still Oppressive
Joe Biden has come a long way since his days as a vociferous drug warrior. But judging from last week’s election results, Americans have come further.
The president-elect now opposes the mandatory minimum sentences and death penalties he once championed, and he portrays himself as a reformer determined to ameliorate the mass incarceration he promoted for decades. But Biden’s approach to drug policy remains intolerant and oppressive in several important ways.
Unlike most of his opponents for the Democratic nomination, Biden opposes repealing the federal ban on marijuana. Instead he favors decriminalizing low-level possession, a policy that was on the cutting edge in the 1970s and that won’t have much of an impact at the federal level, since the Justice Department rarely prosecutes minor marijuana cases.
In every state where marijuana was on the ballot last week, voters approved legalization of either medical or recreational use. Most strikingly, deep red South Dakota became the first state to legalize both simultaneously.
Thirty-five states now recognize cannabis as a medicine, while 15, including a third of the U.S. population, also have legalized recreational use. The latest Gallup poll puts public support for legalization at a record 68 percent.
Biden says states should be free to legalize marijuana. Yet he favors maintaining an untenable conflict between state and federal law that casts a dark shadow over the burgeoning cannabis industry, making basic business functions such as banking and paying taxes needlessly difficult, costly, complicated, and fraught with legal peril.
Regarding the “opioid crisis,” Biden promises to “stop overprescribing while improving access to effective and needed pai
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