In recent news, Joe Biden expressed his views on recreational marijuana during a Las Vegas townhall. He claimed that using marijuana for recreational purposes might be considered a gateway drug. Many of his fellow candidates criticized the 2020 presidential candidate for his views.
What did Biden say?
The former vice president attended a community event in Las Vegas. During this event, he was questioned about his views on the legalization of recreational marijuana. Biden noted that he had always opposed the legalization of marijuana and that his views hadn’t changed.
Biden noted he supports each state’s authority to make the judgment whether to legalize marijuana. He believes that there is insufficient evidence to conclude whether recreational marijuana is a gateway drug. Further, he noted that he would need a lot more evidence to legalize cannabis nationally. He stated that instead of legalizing it, he would rather downgrade cannabis from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule III drug.
Biden expressed his support for medical marijuana and decriminalizing the possession of marijuana. He also agrees that more scientific research should be conducted before addressing the legalization of recreational marijuana.
Criticism leveled at Biden
Biden’s somewhat unpopular opinion triggered the other presidential candidates to weigh in on this issue. Almost all the other leading contenders, particularly Bernie Sanders, have consistently expressed their support for legalizing marijuana at the federal level. Several candidates criticized Biden after he characterized recreational marijuana as a gateway drug.
Washington Democrat Pramila Jayapal tweeted, “It is not. Prohibition is a gateway to racist policing practices and mass incarceration.”
Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang tweeted, “Marijuana should be legal nationwide. It is already legal in several states, it reflects a safer approach to pain relief than opiates, and our administration of drug laws is deeply uneven and racist.”
California Senator Kamala Harris tweeted, “Let’s be clear: marijuana isn’t a gateway drug and should be legalized. Glad to see my bill with Rep. Nadler take the next step in the House this week.”
The public’s views on marijuana legalization
On November 14, Pew Research released its survey results regarding US public opinion on legalizing marijuana. In this survey, 59% of the respondents support the legalization of marijuana for both recreational and medical purposes. However, 32% support only medicinal use, and the remaining 8% prefer not to legalize. In general, Millennials, Generation X, and Baby Boomers support the legalization of marijuana. The Silent Generation continues to oppose legalization.
Medical marijuana is currently legal in 33 states in the US. Fourteen other states have restrictive laws for the use of medical marijuana. These laws mostly limit the THC content in medical marijuana. Recreational marijuana is currently legal in 11 states. Notably, cannabis is still prohibited at the federal level. Cannabis is classified as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.
As a whole, the cannabis sector is going through a rough patch. Year-to-date through November 18, the ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF (MJ) has fallen by 35.6%. In contrast, the S&P Index has risen 24.5% during the same period.