Gateway Drug ? More like Gateway out of the Democratic Race

Mia Levine, Scarlet Staff

At a town hall in Las Vegas, Nevada, a participant asked current presidential nominee Joe Biden if his stance has changed on recreational marijuana. The question referred to Biden’s comment made during the Obama era in which he said, “I believe it’s a gateway drug,” and “legalization is a mistake.” Biden responded “no, it hasn’t changed…the truth of the matter is that there is not nearly enough evidence as to whether or not marijuana is a gateway drug.” Biden supports the decriminalization of marijuana, stating that anyone incarcerated for marijuana should be released and criminal records should be expunged. Still, he will not commit to nationwide legalization. He continues on to say “it’s a debate. Before I legalize it nationally, I want to make sure we know a lot more about the science behind it”. The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) agrees with Biden that a more in-depth study is needed. NIDA’s website states research shows that most users of hard drugs tried marijuana first, but “the majority of people who use marijuana do not go on to use other harder substances.”

Joe Biden, who is currently leading the Democratic nomination race with a 27% polling average, is the only candidate who has not taken a pro-legalization stance on marijuana. Biden’s comments are proof that he is out of step with the times: with democratic voters and people of color. The phrase “gateway drug” was coined by Dr. Kandel, a professor of sociomedical sciences at Columbia University. In the early 1970s, the NIDA gave her money to study marijuana as a possible gateway drug. In the 1980s and 90s, The Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E) took this information and created a school program that enforced the idea that marijuana is a slippery slope to harder drugs. In 2016, D.A.R.E removed marijuana from its list of gateway drugs. If D.A.R.E can do it, Former VP Biden can do it too.

Currently, Biden may support the decriminalization of marijuana, but let us not forget his time in the Senate when he called on President Bush to escalate the War on Drugs. The War on Drugs was a government-led initiative that aimed to stop illegal drug use, distribution, and trade through increasing and enforcing penalties for offenders. This War was declared by Nixon in June of 1971. In the 80s and 90s, Reagan reinforced Nixon’s policies regarding the War on Drugs. Bush came into office as the War on Drugs was losing steam. By the end of Bush’s term, there were about 40,000 paramilitary-style SWAT raids on Americans every year – mostly for nonviolent drug law offenses, often misdemeanors.

Biden did not just support the war on drugs and mass incarceration; he helped architect it. While in the Senate, Biden wrote many of the laws that helped build the current criminal justice system. That included measures that enacted more incarceration, more prisons, and tougher prison sentences for drug offenses, particularly crack cocaine. These measures promoted mass incarceration and mandatory minimum sentencing laws which have destroyed innocent lives, torn apart families, and cost the American taxpayers $182 billion annually.

By looking back at the hard policies that created the current mess, it is common knowledge that the War on Drugs is a complete failure. The website Leafly, which provides education on marijuana, went so far as to claim that “few politicians have done more harm in America’s war on drugs than the former senator from Delaware.” Even though Biden has tried to clean up his mess, his janitorial job has not been the best. It is time to hold those responsible for the War on Drugs accountable for their actions and the 2020 election is the first place to start. Former Vice President Joe Biden, thank you for your time in Congress and the White House but do not ever expect the tile of “My President.”