White House Press Secretary: Joe Biden's Opposition to Legalizing Marijuana Hasn't Changed

But forthcoming legislation in the Senate could force Biden's hand.


White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at a press conference today that President Joe Biden's opposition to legalizing marijuana hasn't changed since taking office.

"He spoke about this on the campaign," Psaki said in response to a question about marijuana legalization. "He believes in decriminalizing the use of marijuana, but his position has not changed."

The Biden White House has—unsurprisingly, given both Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris' past criminal justice records—been decidedly unchill about jazz cigarettes. Psaki's comments come after reports earlier this month that the White House had sanctioned staffers for past marijuana use.

Democrats may force Biden's hand, though. In February, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.), joined by Sens. Corey Booker (D–N.J.) and Ron Wyden (D–Ore.) said they will pursue comprehensive marijuana reform now that Democrats control both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

"The War on Drugs has been a war on people—particularly people of color," the senators said in a press release. "Ending the federal marijuana prohibition is necessary to right the wrongs of this failed war and end decades of harm inflicted on communities of color across the country."

At the state level, New York is on the verge of legalizing marijuana, and about a third of the U.S. population now lives in states where the drug is legal for recreational use.

Internationally, the grass may soon be greener across both the northern and southern U.S. border. Mexico is expected to pass legislation in April legalizing marijuana.

If the White House wants to continue to insist that decriminalization, drug courts, and mandatory rehab are an acceptable substitute for individual autonomy, or anything other than a low-grade continuation of the drug war, it may do so, but it will find that position is becoming awfully lonely.

As Reason's Jacob Sullum wrote recently, "there is no moral justification for foisting 'rehabilitation' on people who do not want it and may not even be addicted. That policy strips people of their liberty, dignity, and moral agency simply because they consume psychoactive substances that politicians do not like."