Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, gives a speech on July 11, 2019 in New York City.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, gives a speech on July 11, 2019 in New York City. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

'Just Not a Serious Opinion in 2019': Critics Pan Joe Biden Claim That Marijuana Is a Gateway Drug

"Perpetuating unsubstantiated theories like this hurts people."

Eoin Higgins

Critics of former Vice President Joe Biden attacked remarks made by the Democrat Saturday in Las Vegas that appeared to endorse the long-discredited myth that marijuana is a gateway drug. 

"Perpetuating unsubstantiated theories like this hurts people," said attorney and activist Eliza Orlins.

Biden, one of the top contenders for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, made the comments at a town hall in Las Vegas. 

"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," said Biden, who added he'd want to know more about the science before committing to full legalization of the plant.

"The gateway drug thing is just not a serious opinion in 2019," tweeted The Atlantic's Adam Serwer.

Research since at least 2002 has disproven the longstanding myth that marijuana is a gateway to other drugs. 

"It is not a question anymore," said attorney Scott Hechinger, who added that the cost of incarceration is well known. 

As The Washington Post reported, Biden's remarks Saturday are in step with his decades-long career in Washington as a senator from Delaware:

Throughout most of his legislative career, Biden championed tough criminal penalties for possession, including in the 1994 crime bill, which many critics have since linked to a rapid rise in mass incarceration and mass policing. Biden, who oversaw the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time, was one of the bill's key authors, so much so that he later took to calling it the "1994 Biden Crime Bill."

Even as he's shifted his stance on harsh penalties for nonviolent drug crimes, Biden has a long record of skepticism toward full marijuana legalization.

"Finger firmly on the pulse of 1994," author A. R. Moxon tweeted wryly of Biden. 

By contrast, Biden's top-tier opponents in the 2020 primary Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), as well as candidate Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), have advocated for legalization of marijuana at the federal level. 

"Too many lives were ruined due to the disastrous criminalization of marijuana," Sanders said on October 24 upon release of his plan.

A Thursday poll from Pew Research showed that 78% of Democrats believe marijuana should be legalized. Two-thirds of all Americans support legalization. 


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Peace Advocates Sound Dire Warnings as Progressives Go All-In for $40 Billion Ukraine War Package

"Russia's invasion of Ukraine must be condemned," says one activist. "But the administration has been telegraphing for weeks that its war aims now go well beyond defending Ukraine."

Brett Wilkins ·


Oklahoma Lawmakers Pass Strictest US Abortion Ban While Roe Still Stands

Reproductive rights supporters vowed to fight against the ban that begins at fertilization and, like legislation in Texas, "creates a bounty-hunting scheme" for enforcement.

Jessica Corbett ·


Judy Blume, Mo Willems Among 1,300 Children's Authors to Condemn 'Wave of Book Suppression'

"Reading stories that reflect the diversity of our world builds empathy and respect for everyone's humanity."

Kenny Stancil ·


Now Do Windfall Tax, Say Climate Groups After Passage of Big Oil Price Gouging Bill

"Voters will reward politicians who stand up for people, not polluters," said one campaigner, "and taxing windfall profits is wildly popular in every part of the country."

Brett Wilkins ·


Ocasio-Cortez: Maloney Should Quit DCCC Post If He Runs Against Mondaire Jones

"It's completely inappropriate" for Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney to be in charge of the House Democrats' campaign arm "if he's going to challenge another member," said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo