2020 Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden said he would not support marijuana legalization at the federal level Saturday, arguing that the jury is still out on whether substance is a “gateway drug.”
“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 during a Las Vegas town hall Saturday, according to Business Insider. “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.”
Throughout the campaign, Biden has been consistent on his support for decriminalizing possession of the substance and legalizing marijuana for medical use. On Saturday, the former vice president made clear that he supported legalization as a state decision.
“States should be able to make a judgment to legalize marijuana,” Biden said.
Biden’s more conservative approach to the issue runs counter to several 2020 White House rivals who have called to legalize marijuana at the federal level.
New Jersey Senator Cory Booker has even introduced legislation in the Senate that would legalize marijuana nationwide, and would also expunge the records of those convicted of marijuana drug crimes. The bill has drawn the support of Senators Kamala Harris of California, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Michael Bennet of Colorado, and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, all of whom are still vying for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.
South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro, Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, self-help author Marianne Williamson, tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang, and billionaire Tom Steyer have all expressed support for progressive calls for legalization.
Biden’s resistance to get behind federal legalization marks another rift between Biden and the candidates pushing the party further to the left this election cycle. While Biden is by no means a moderate, and would be considered the most radical candidate in any previous Democratic primary for his positions on climate and health care, the former long-time Delaware senator has positioned himself in the moderate lane to make it through the primary.
Biden’s Saturday comments come just days before the top ten candidates will face each other on the debate stage again in Georgia. Biden will be the only candidate on stage who has not expressed support for federal marijuana legalization.