Former Vice President Joe Biden is making one other run for the White House, he introduced on Thursday. The former senator, who served as chair of the influential Judiciary Committee that helped form U.S. drug coverage throughout an period of heightened scaremongering and criminalization, was among the many most outstanding Democratic drug warriors in Congress for many years.
And whereas many 2020 Democratic candidates have developed considerably on drug coverage—and notably marijuana reform—over time, Biden has barely budged. While he’s acknowledged the long-term harms of sure items of laws he supported and has made some efforts to try to restore that injury, general he’s maintained a agency opposition to hashish legalization—a stance that units him far other than each different main Democratic contender.
Biden served as vice chairman beneath President Barack Obama, and he’s expressed pleasure that he was entrusted to supervise issues of prison justice from the White House. To the administration’s credit score, the Obama Justice Department was chargeable for enacting a number of main drug coverage adjustments—particularly, the Cole memo, which cleared the best way for state-legal marijuana companies to function largely with out federal interference. But it was additionally throughout Obama’s time in workplace that the division declined to place totally different hashish legal guidelines on the books, rejecting petitions to reschedule the plant beneath the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
A take a look at Biden’s report on marijuana coverage over previous many years reveals a politician whose views on medication are largely set in stone and more and more out of contact with lawmakers in his celebration and voters throughout the political spectrum. He’s sponsored among the nation’s most punitive drug laws, together with the infamous 1994 crime invoice. In some circumstances, he has addressed the implications of his anti-drug legislative activism. But a better examination exposes patterns: he has lengthy maintained that medication must be unlawful throughout the board, that the prison justice system is well-equipped to deal with drug offenders and that regulating marijuana is a mistake.
Here’s the place Joe Biden stands on hashish and drug coverage.
Legislation And Policy Actions
The 1980s was a time of extraordinary upheaval for U.S. drug coverage, with lawmakers pushing quite a few payments meant to scare individuals away from utilizing managed substances by the use of propaganda and threats of incarceration. Biden was among the many loudest and most excessive voices backing anti-drug measures. While there was a shift in tone over time, his observe report will seemingly be some extent of competition on the marketing campaign path.
Biden launched the Comprehensive Narcotics Control Act of 1986. The wide-ranging anti-drug legislation known as for the institution of a cupboard place to develop the federal authorities’s drug enforcement insurance policies—a task that matches the outline of the “drug czar” place, a time period the senator coined in 1982 and which was subsequently created to steer the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).
“We need one person to call the shots,” Biden said on the time, whereas additionally criticizing the Reagan administration’s anti-drug efforts, saying “their commitment is minuscule in terms of dollars.”
The invoice would have additionally expanded Justice Department authority to grab belongings in drug circumstances, impose necessary minimal sentences for offenses involving sure quantities of managed substances, improve different drug penalties and add new substances to the CSA. It additionally approved appropriations for the U.S. Department of Defense for “enhanced drug enforcement assistance”—an early indication of what would grow to be an more and more militarized drug struggle—and requested the navy to “prepare a list of defense facilities which can be used as detention facilities for felons.”
Further, the laws would have required the secretary of the Interior to create a program to eradicate marijuana on Indian territory. It additionally included a provision for Congress to induce the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs to create a brand new worldwide conference “against illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances,” and known as for “more effective implementation of existing conventions relating to narcotics.” It additionally proposed setting apart cash for the event of “herbicides for use in aerial eradication of coca,” which might later grow to be a key a part of the controversial Plan Colombia program.
In 1989, Biden filed a bill that may have required the U.S. to suggest a program to the United Nations the place member states may have their money owed partially forgiven in change for committing to make use of sources to scale back worldwide drug trafficking. One instance of one thing a rustic may do to reap these rewards could be to “increase seizures” of medication together with marijuana.
Another expansive anti-drug invoice the senator launched was known as the Federal Crime Control Act of 1989. Among different issues, the legislation would have expanded asset forfeiture authorities, required people charged for sure drug crimes to be held for sentencing or enchantment fairly than launched on bail and mandated that the lawyer basic “aggressively use criminal, civil, and other equitable remedies…against drug offenders.”
It proposed authorizing the president to declare state or a part of a state is a “drug disaster area,” which might be entitled to grants of as much as $50 million “for any single drug-related emergency.”
Under the laws, the Justice Department would set up a brand new division devoted to sustaining or rising “the level of enforcement activities with respect to criminal racketeering, narcotics trafficking, money laundering, asset forfeiture, international crime, and civil enforcement.” It could be directed to “establish at least 20 field offices of the Division to be known as Organized Crime and Dangerous Drug Strike Forces” and “at least ten International Drug Enforcement Teams.”
Biden additionally launched the National Drug Control Strategy Act in 1990. It included plenty of jarring provisions meant to discourage drug use, together with the institution of “military-style boot camp prisons” that might be used as various sentencing choices for individuals convicted of drug-related offenses who examined constructive for a managed substance on the time of an arrest or following an arrest.
The legislation additionally known as for a requirement that folks move a drug take a look at as a situation of probation or parole earlier than a sentence is imposed, and likewise subsequently undergo not less than two drug exams. It would additionally require federal workers working in a division that offers with kids to move a background examine, specifying that any drug conviction on an individual’s report is barred from employment.
Then there’s the propaganda provision of the invoice, beneath which the director of the ONDCP could be required to “provide resources to assist members of the motion picture and television industries in the production of programs that carry anti-drug messages.”
If that wasn’t sufficient, the invoice would even have approved appropriations beneath the Arms Export Control Act and the Foreign Assistance Act for use to coach and help navy and legislation enforcement of their anti-drug manufacturing and trafficking operations. A separate provision would have inspired the Central Intelligence Agency to reinforce human intelligence that might be used to fight worldwide drug trafficking.
Biden launched a bill on capital punishment in 1990 that was later amended to incorporate a provision often known as the Drug Kingpin Death Penalty Act, which known as for the imposition of capital punishment for anybody who killed somebody whereas finishing up a federal drug offenses and was the pinnacle of a prison enterprise who certified for necessary life imprisonment.
In 1991, Joe Biden boasted of increasing the dying penalty for main drug sellers and widening asset forfeiture, in addition to proscribing judges’ discretion in sentencing. “The government can take everything you own, from your car to your house to your bank account!” pic.twitter.com/juKJhEQ8Ep
— Zaid Jilani (@ZaidJilani) April 3, 2019
“There is now a death penalty,” he stated later, in a 1991 ground speech. “If you are a major drug dealer, involved in the trafficking of drugs, and murder results in your activities, you go to death.”
In that very same speech, he touted the growth of civil asset forfeiture, saying the “government can take everything you own, from your car to your house to your bank account.”
The proposal additionally elevated penalties for sure drug offenses dedicated close to colleges or faculties and directed the lawyer basic to “develop a model program of strategies and tactics for establishing and maintaining drug-free school zones.” It declared that drug offenses dedicated by juveniles could be handled “as offenses warranting adult prosecution,” put aside funds to create a nationwide drug and associated crime tip hotline and approved “payment of awards for information or assistance leading to a civil or criminal forfeiture.”
The Senate handed that amended laws, and Biden was amongst those that voted in favor of it.
The Biden-Thurmond Violent Crime Control Act of 1991, which the senator sponsored alongside segregationist Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-SC), proposed prohibiting individuals with “serious drug misdemeanor” convictions from buying firearms and creating a compulsory 5 12 months penalty for firearms possession by “serious drug offenders.”
An amended model of the bill, which Biden voted in favor of, additionally made federal marijuana legal guidelines extra punitive by lowering “from 100 to 50 the number of marihuana plants needed to qualify for specified penalties” and stipulated that folks convicted of three felony drug prices ought to handed a sentence of life imprisonment with out launch.
Additionally, the invoice would have elevated penalties for the usage of a managed substance in public housing, expanded the definition of “drug paraphernalia” beneath the CSA to incorporate issues like scales and syringes and prohibited the commercial of Schedule I medication comparable to hashish.
In 1993, Biden filed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, a bill that may have required the director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts to ascertain a drug testing program for federal offenders on “post-conviction release.” It additionally would’ve elevated penalties for these convicted of drug distribution in “drug-free” zones and ban promoting “which aims to illegally solicit or sell drugs.”
It would additionally direct state and federal courtroom clerks to “report to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and prosecutors the name and taxpayer identification number of anyone accused of a drug, money laundering, or racketeering crime who posts cash bail exceeding $10,000.”
The following 12 months he filed separate legislation of the identical title. While that model was indefinitely postponed within the Senate, the House companion invoice—the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, additionally identified colloquially because the crime invoice—handed each chambers and was signed into legislation by President Bill Clinton in September 1994. Biden voted in favor of the legislation, which has since grow to be often known as one of many largest drivers of mass incarceration within the U.S.
Among different issues, the wide-ranging anti-crime invoice established the aforementioned federal drug testing program for prisoners on launch, amended the federal code to make sure drug-related murders punishable by dying, enhanced penalties for drug dealing in “drug free” zones, allowed the president to declare “drug emergency” areas and to “take action to alleviate the emergency” and required courts to submit data to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about juveniles who’re convicted of sure drug crimes.
Biden used the growth of the dying penalty to defend the crime invoice he helped write towards critiques that it was too tender. He emphasised in a 1994 ground speech that the laws included “60 new death penalties—brand new.”
Delaware Senator Joe Biden on the ground in 1994, defending his crime invoice towards the cost that it wasn’t powerful sufficient. “There are 60 new penalties, 60 new death penalties! Brand new! 60!” pic.twitter.com/mtUQ3B74P7
— Zaid Jilani (@ZaidJilani) April 4, 2019
Biden sponsored a bill in 1997 to ascertain the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas Program throughout the ONDCP.
The senator, who went to nice lengths to be thought to be pleasant to legislation enforcement, additionally launched a resolution in 2008 “honoring the men and women of the Drug Enforcement Administration” on the division’s 35th anniversary, particularly cheering the company’s report of “aggressively targeting organizations involved in the growing, manufacturing, and distribution of such substances as marijuana.”
“The Senate… gives heartfelt thanks to all the men and women of the DEA for their past and continued efforts to defend the people of the United States from the scourge of illegal drugs and terrorism,” the decision states.
In 2003, Biden sponsored a bill to amend the CSA to “prohibit knowingly leasing, renting, or using, or intentionally profiting from, any place…whether permanently or temporarily, for the purpose of manufacturing, storing, distributing, or using a controlled substance.” The Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act, which later grew to become the Reducing Americans’ Vulnerability to Ecstasy (RAVE) Act, has been blamed for making festivals and music occasions the place medication like MDMA are taken much less protected by discouraging operators from offering on-site hurt discount providers out of worry they’d be prosecuted for knowingly permitting drug use. He cosponsored a later version as effectively.
Biden additionally cosponsored plenty of controversial anti-drug payments filed by different lawmakers throughout his time within the Senate.
He signed on because the lead Democratic cosponsor of Thurmond’s Criminal Code Reform Act in 1981. The bill would have elevated penalties for trafficking in medication together with “large amounts” of marijuana. The subsequent 12 months, Biden additionally appeared because the lead Democratic cosponsor of Thurmond’s Violent Crime and Drug Enforcement Improvements Act, which might have expanded federal asset forfeiture authorities, made it so juveniles might be transferred to grownup courtroom for sure violent or drug-related crimes and established a brand new workplace to “plan and coordinate drug enforcement efforts” for the federal authorities.
Another Thurmond bill that Biden signed on to in 1983 proposed increasing federal asset forfeiture authorities.
In 1998, as states started making strikes to permit medical hashish, the senator cosponsored a resolution “in support of the existing Federal legal process for determining the safety and efficacy of drugs, including marijuana and other Schedule I drugs, for medicinal use.”
“Congress continues to support the existing Federal legal process for determining the safety and efficacy of drugs and opposes efforts to circumvent this process by legalizing marijuana, and other Schedule I drugs, for medicinal use without valid scientific evidence and the approval of the Food and Drug Administration,” the decision states. It additionally expressed issues about “ambiguous cultural messages about marijuana use are contributing to a growing acceptance of marijuana use among children and teenagers” and voiced help for federal authorities imposing prohibition “through seizure and other civil action, as well as through criminal penalties”
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), chief sponsor of the decision, described it this manner: “Our resolution addresses the effort by the drug legalization lobby in this country to get marijuana and other dangerous drugs on the streets, in our homes, and in our schools. These groups have been trying to do this for years. Sadly, they have been somewhat successful.”
Biden was an authentic cosponsor of one other notorious drug-related bill, the Anti Drug Abuse Act of 1986. The House version, which he voted in favor of, was in the end signed into legislation by President Ronald Reagan. It’s finest identified for creating sentencing disparities for crack versus powder cocaine; it imposed a 1:100 crack to energy cocaine ratio, whereby one gram of crack was equal to 100 grams of powder cocaine beneath the legislation. The provision led to important racial disparities within the prison justice system.
The invoice additionally laid out varied penalties for marijuana and different medication, and it established “a program for the eradication of marijuana cultivation within Indian country.”
About 20 years later, Biden sponsored a bill trying to make up for the crack-powder cocaine disparity by rising the quantity of cocaine that certified a person for a compulsory minimal sentence and likewise eliminating the five-year necessary minimal for first-time possession of crack cocaine. The sentencing disparity was finally lessened when Congress handed a invoice in 2010 decreasing the burden ratio from 100:1 to 18:1 for crack versus powder cocaine. The laws was signed whereas Biden served as vice chairman.
The senator additionally voted in favor of Anti Drug Abuse Act of 1988, which formally established ONDCP, made first-time possession of crack topic to a five-year necessary minimal sentence and likewise included provisions to extend drug remedy and prevention efforts. Biden noted that the invoice, which grew to become legislation, “contains many provisions that we have sponsored in the past.”
Biden voted in favor of a large omnibus bill in 1999 that included language directing the drug czar to “take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a substance” in Schedule I.
It additionally expressed the sense of Congress that “the several States, and the citizens of such States, should reject the legalization of drugs through legislation, ballot proposition, constitutional amendment, or any other means” and made clear its opposition to “efforts to legalize marijuana for medicinal use without valid scientific evidence and the approval of the Food and Drug Administration.”
Curiously, Biden as soon as made an earmark request for nearly half 1,000,000 to go towards the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE), the youth anti-drug marketing campaign that rose to reputation within the 1990s. Harper’s identified that the principle lobbyist for DARE beforehand labored beneath Biden whereas he was Judiciary Committee chairman and likewise contributed $2,300 to the senator the previous to the request.
Quotes And Social Media Posts
There are not any mentions of marijuana on Biden’s social media feeds. But that doesn’t imply he hasn’t been speaking concerning the challenge. Unlike different candidates for the Democratic nomination, nonetheless, the quotes one finds when looking via his previous will not be supportive of reform. For probably the most half, they’re the precise reverse.
In a 1974 article from the Washingtonian, the senator—at that time 31-years-old, making him the youngest member of the Senate—tried to distance himself from being recognized as liberal. While he argued he was progressive on “civil rights and civil liberties,” he stated “when it comes to issues like abortion, amnesty, and acid, I’m about as liberal as your grandmother.”
“I don’t think marijuana should be legalized,” he stated.
About three and a half many years later, in 2010, the then-vice president said, “I still believe it’s a gateway drug. I’ve spent a lot of my life as chairman of the Judiciary Committee dealing with this. I think it would be a mistake to legalize.”
“The punishment should fit the crime,” he stated. “But I think legalization is a mistake.”
In 1989, President George H. W. Bush addressed the nation in a televised look to stipulate the administration’s drug management technique. But even his proposals didn’t fulfill Biden’s thirst for a harder and extra punitive strategy. He delivered the Democratic response to that handle.
“Every president for the past two decades—Democrat and Republican alike—has declared war on drugs—and each of them has lost that war and lost it miserably,” Biden said. “They lost because they attempted to deal with only part of the drug problem. They lost because their initiatives were pulled apart by bureaucratic squabbling among their advisors. They lost because they always did too little and they did it too late.”
“The trouble is that the president’s proposals are not big enough to deal with the problem. His rhetoric isn’t matched by the resources we need to get the job done. Quite frankly, the president’s plan is not tough enough, bold enough or imaginative enough to meet the crisis at hand.”
Throughout his personal time within the White House as vice chairman, Biden constantly took an opposing stance on marijuana reform proposals. He said in 2012 that he had “serious doubts that decriminalization would have a major impact on the earnings of violent criminal organizations, given that these organizations have diversified into criminal activities beyond drug trafficking,” for instance.
During a visit to Mexico, Biden discouraged Latin American international locations from legalizing marijuana, arguing that whereas he understood their curiosity in pursuing various approaches to curb prohibition-related violence, the professionals of legalization had been outweighed by the cons.
“I think it warrants a discussion. It is totally legitimate,” he said. “And the reason it warrants a discussion is, on examination you realize there are more problems with legalization than with nonlegalization.”
He was requested in 2014 whether or not he helps legalization and flatly said “no,” however added that “the idea of focusing significant resources on interdicting or convicting people for smoking marijuana is a waste of our resources” and that he “support[s] the President’s policy” of non-intervention in state legal guidelines by way of the Cole memo.
“Our policy for our administration is still not legalization, and that is and continues to be our policy,” Biden stated.
“But on the entire criminal-justice front, the good news is there are two things the President asked in the beginning that I wanted to have sort of day-to-day jurisdiction over. And one was I said the violence-against-women portfolio and law enforcement, cops,” he stated in the identical interview with TIME Magazine, touting his function in shaping the administration’s insurance policies. “When we put together the budget, I’ve been basically the guy who has the final say in the criminal-justice side of the budget. So and I’m still a point person along with the Attorney General with law enforcement, with the criminal-justice system and all those issues relating to violence against women.”
“So on the criminal-justice side, I am not only the guy who did the crime bill and the drug czar, but I’m also the guy who spent years when I was chairman of the Judiciary Committee and chairman of [the Senate Foreign Relations Committee], trying to change drug policy relative to cocaine, for example, crack and powder. I mean, I worked for the last five years I was there, and [Illinois Senator Richard] Durbin’s continuing to work. And [New York Senator Chuck] Schumer. And the President shares this. And I’m still engaged in those things… In the meantime there were some things that came, everything from marijuana to drug control. And I was on another assignment. When I’m in there, when we’re both in town, I attend every meeting [Obama] has.”
Biden has spent a number of time speaking concerning the significance of the drug czar place, an thought he championed into creation. And William Bennett, the primary particular person to serve in that function and one of many “architects” of the drug struggle, shared an anecdote in 2018 about how Biden seen his efficiency. According to Bennett, Biden stated “you’re not being tough enough” to the person who as soon as stated he wasn’t bothered by the thought of publicly beheading drug sellers.
As a senator in 1999, Biden strongly supported an interventionist initiative aimed toward disrupting drug cartels and a political rebel group in Colombia. Part of that plan concerned spraying aerial herbicide on coca crops, which led to well being issues for these on the bottom in addition to environmental injury. While he confronted criticism on the time, he maintained his perception that the intervention was successful in a 2015 editorial in The New York Times.
“In 1999, we initiated Plan Colombia to combat drug trafficking, grinding poverty and institutional corruption — combined with a vicious insurgency — that threatened to turn Colombia into a failed state,” the then-vice president wrote. “Fifteen years later, Colombia is a nation transformed.”
In 2007, Biden defended his vote in favor of extra border wall fencing by peddling a delusion that has since been echoed repeatedly by President Donald Trump, telling CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that he “voted for the fence related to drugs.”
“A fence will stop 20 kilos of cocaine coming through that fence. It will not stop someone climbing over it or around it,” Biden stated, even though the overwhelming majority of drug smuggling happens at authorized ports of entry. “And it is designed not just to deal with illegals, it’s designed with a serious drug trafficking problem we have.”
Asked in 2016 whether or not he regretted selling the 1994 crime laws, Biden stated “not at all.”
“When you take a look at the crime bill, of the money in the crime bill, the vast majority went to reducing sentences, diverting people from going to jail for drug offenses into—what I came up with it—drug courts, providing for boot camps instead of sending people to prison so you didn’t relearn whatever the bad thing that got you there in the first place,” he stated. “We had enormous success.”
“There are things that I would change,” he stated, citing a automobile jacking provision he stated the administration needed to incorporate. “But by and large, what it really did, it restored American cities.”
But by January 2019, as Biden was gearing up for a presidential run, he appeared much less bullish about defending his function in shaping the prison justice world that emerged out of the 1990s.
“I haven’t always been right,” he said. “I know we haven’t always gotten things right, but I’ve always tried.”
He added that sentencing disparities for crack and cocaine “trapped an entire generation” and added the the laws “was a big mistake when it was made.”
About a decade after Biden helped write into legislation among the nation’s most consequential anti-drug legal guidelines, he did finally communicate out towards sentencing disparities for crack versus powder cocaine, and he additionally acknowledged his function in shaping the prison justice system to doled out these sentences.
“I might say at the outset in full disclosure, I am the guy that drafted this legislation years ago with a guy named Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who was the senator from New York at the time,” Biden said at a Senate listening to in 2008. “And crack was new.”
“It was a new ‘epidemic’ that we were facing. And we had at that time extensive medical testimony talking about the particularly addictive nature of crack versus powder cocaine. And the school of thought was that we had to do everything we could to dissuade the use of crack cocaine. And so I am part of the problem that I have been trying to solve since then, because I think the disparity is way out of line.”
Biden has additionally characterized the “three strikes system,” whereby individuals could be sentenced to life after being convicted of three violent felonies, as “simplistic” and argued towards it.
“I think we’ve had all the mandatory minimums that we need,” Biden stated in 1993. “We don’t need the ones that we have.”
When Biden was within the Senate, he reportedly told staffers that he needed individuals to think about him any time they heard the phrases “drugs” and “crime.” He has his staff “think up excuses for new hearings on drugs and crime every week—any connection, no matter how remote.”
But within the trendy political local weather, the place voters are more and more supportive of insurance policies to reform the cruel drug legal guidelines that Biden pushed, that type of phrase affiliation isn’t prone to win him a lot favor, particularly amongst Democrats.
Most lately, in April 2019, Biden appeared on a panel devoted to the opioid epidemic. During that panel, a professor claimed that ache sufferers who devour hashish expertise the identical ranges of ache and don’t scale back their consumption of opioid painkillers, and she or he criticized state strikes to permit medical marijuana. Biden applauded the talk and likewise appeared to whisper “she’s right” to the visitor beside him.
He additionally stated that “a little pain is not bad” at one level in the course of the panel. Taken collectively, it appears Biden hasn’t developed a lot since 2007, when he was operating for president and likewise complained about “pain management and chronic pain management” within the U.S. and stated there has “got to be a better answer than marijuana.”
“There’s got to be a better answer than that,” he stated on the time, permitting that he would not less than search to cease federal raids on state-legal medical hashish sufferers and suppliers. “There’s got to be a better way for a humane society to figure out how to deal with that problem.”
Biden’s 2020 marketing campaign website doesn’t listing help of any particular hashish reform measures however as an alternative says the nation must “reform the criminal justice system to prioritize prevention, eliminate racial disparities that don’t fit the crime, and help make sure formerly incarcerated individuals who have served their sentences are able to fully participate in our democracy and economy.”
Personal Experience With Marijuana
At the identical time that Biden has been one of the crucial vociferous defenders of harsh, anti-drug insurance policies, he has additionally seen individuals near him impacted by drug criminalization. His daughter Ashley was arrested for marijuana possession and allegedly used cocaine in a video “friend” of hers tried to promote for $2 million. And his son Hunter was kicked out of the navy after testing positive for cocaine throughout a randomized drug take a look at.
It doesn’t seem that Biden has publicly commented on any private expertise he has had with marijuana or different medication.
Marijuana Under A Biden Presidency
It will likely be fascinating to see how Biden addresses questions on marijuana and drug coverage typically when placed on stage alongside a crowd of different candidates that uniformly help legalization. Will he double down in his opposition or make imprecise guarantees to not crack down on authorized hashish states? Could he be pushed even additional—to a degree the place he comes out in help of modest marijuana reform laws comparable to permitting banks to service state-legal hashish companies? Or will likely be endorse legalization outright in an effort to take the problem off the desk?
For now, a evaluation of Biden’s report alerts that he would unlikely be a champion for marijuana reform if elected president.