On Saturday, former vice president and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden came out against federal legalization of cannabis.
"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 that more research needs to be done before he would sign off on federal legalization.
In his 36-year-long career as a U.S. Senator, Biden stood behind a number of bills that supported tough punishment for non-violent possession charges.
Biden does support the idea of states regulating the drug independently and has softened his position on possession charges, stating that they should not be considered a crime.
His campaign supports revising past convictions, expunging unlawful and racially biased incarcerations.
Leafly Scientist: Legalization Needed To Continue Research
Biden and 17 other candidates are vying to become the Democratic nominee for president in 2020.
Primary elections are scheduled to take place from February to June.
The Democratic Party's eventual choice for 2020 will have strong consequences for the cannabis industry.
Some of Biden's competitors, such as Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, have stated they support full federal legalization.
Nick Jikomes, Leafly's principal research scientist, said Biden is out of touch with the majority of Americans who want safe, legal access to cannabis.
"There is no compelling scientific evidence that cannabis is a 'gateway drug.' There is strong evidence that medical cannabis can be effective in the treatment of chronic pain in adults and may help people decrease their use of highly addictive prescription opioids."
The individual cannabinoids found in cannabis such as CBD are being studied for anti-addictive properties and the potential to help prevent relapse in opioid addiction, he said.
The country needs federal legalization to continue researching the vast potential of the plant, Jikomes said.
NCIA: Biden Stuck In War On Drugs Mindset
Several studies contradict Biden's comments, said Rob Dhoble, managing director at Havas ECS and a medical cannabis expert.
He emphasized cannabis’ role in helping people overcome addiction to other substances, mentioning a study conducted in 2015.
“Findings include high self-reported use of cannabis as a substitute for prescription drugs (63%), particularly pharmaceutical opioids (30%), benzodiazepines (16%) and antidepressants (12%). Patients also reported substituting cannabis for alcohol (25%), cigarettes/tobacco (12%) and illicit drugs (3%),” according to the International Journal of Drug Policy.
Morgan Fox, a spokeswoman for the National Cannabis Industry Association, said removing cannabis from the schedule of controlled
substances and regulating it at the federal level is the only effective path to repairing the harm caused by past marijuana policy.
“Despite mountains of evidence showing there is nothing intrinsic to marijuana that increases consumer desire or likelihood to try other substances, Joe Biden appears to be stuck in the outdated 'war on drugs' mindset that he helped perpetuate in Congress,” she said.
“Prohibition is the real gateway — to wasted resources, discrimination, criminality, lost opportunity and public health problems.”
Photo by Dustin Blitchok.