Former Vice President Joe Biden has begun tip-toeing towards throwing his hat in the ring as a candidate in the 2020 Democratic Presidential Primary.
Few politicians have done more harm in America’s war on drugs than the former senator from Delaware.
Political watchers are expecting him to formally announce any day now. But Biden, who carefully cultivated a genial “Uncle Joe” image during his eight years as Obama’s veep, knows he’s got a history that could drag him down. Few politicians have done more harm in America’s war on drugs than the former senator from Delaware.
Just last month, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, he addressed a room full of civil rights activists on the subject of criminal justice, hoping to shore up support.
“I haven’t always been right,” Biden told the National Action Network, “but I’ve always tried.”
Try telling that to the millions of people and entire communities who’ve had their lives torn apart by laws championed by kindly old Uncle Joe. From green lighting civil asset forfeiture to incentivizing mass incarceration to cheerleading mandatory minimums and the militarization of the police, Joe Biden has been a driving force behind America’s disastrous approach to drug policy.
Original Drug War Architect
Many of the original architects of America’s drug war have retired or passed away. Biden remains one of the few still in power—and may soon reach for more.
His influence over drug policy and mass incarceration began in the 1980s, when, as a senator from Delaware, he served as chair of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee.
Policies Biden personally put into place greatly expanded a racist, ineffective, costly, unjust and oppressive quagmire that was already an obvious failure when he first entered government service nearly 50 years ago. That same self-destructive drug war rages on today—in America and around the world.
America Changed, Biden Didn’t
Meanwhile, Biden remains one of very few prominent Democrats who’ve still failed to endorse cannabis legalization at the federal level. A policy that’s currently supported by 62% of Americans—including 45% of Republicans—and is already the law of the land in ten states remains too radical for him to sign off on.Biden remains one of few prominent Democrats who’ve still failed to endorse cannabis legalization at the federal level.
At the very least, Biden seems to be aware of the fact that the times and public opinion are changing around him. He was plenty outspoken about drug policy in the 1980s, but has run silent on the issue for nearly a decade. The last time he substantively addressed legalization appears to be 2010, in an ABC News interview:
“There’s a difference between sending someone to jail for a few ounces and legalizing it,” he said. “The punishment should fit the crime. But I think legalization is a mistake. I still believe [marijuana] is a gateway drug.”
Well, Joe, it’s a free country—believe anything you want. But the gateway theory has long been thoroughly debunked. Even D.A.R.E. no longer promotes that old canard.