Joe Biden says he would not legalise cannabis over fears it could be gateway drug

Presidential candidate's statement comes despite slew of academic evidence that substance does not lead users to harder drugs

Zoe Tidman
Monday 18 November 2019 11:25 GMT
Joe Biden says not enough scientific evidence to prove cannabis is not 'gateway drug'

Joe Biden has said he would not legalise cannabis across the US because he feared it could be a gateway drug.

The Democratic presidential candidate said he needed “a lot more” evidence on whether the substance caused further drug use.

The US National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) says most cannabis users do not go on to use harder substances.

"There has not been nearly enough evidence that has been acquired as to whether or not it is a gateway drug,” Mr Biden said during a town hall meeting in Las Vegas.

“It’s a debate. I want a lot more before I legalise it nationally. I want to make sure we know a lot more about the science behind it.”

While some research points to cannabis acting as a "gateway" to harder substances, other research has found alcohol and nicotine may be more likely to lead to further drug use.

One study found that even though cannabis did often precede people taking other drugs, the reason why subjects used cannabis in the first place - such as "boredom" - was a larger risk factor than the cannabis itself.

Mr Biden said he supported individual states deciding their own recreational cannabis laws.

He said: “I don’t know enough to know whether it is [a gateway drug] or not, although I’ve done a great deal of work on the drugs side of the issue.”

The former vice president under Barack Obama was asked during the meeting whether his stance towards recreational cannabis has changed. He replied: “No, it has not.”

Mr Biden has a long history of supporting anti-drug legislation and has been criticised for his role during the "war on drugs" of the 1990s.

While chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he helped write a “tough on crime” bill which led to harsh sentences for crack cocaine use and has been accused as disproportionately affecting black Americans.

However, during his talk in Las Vegas, he said he did not believe people should be sent to prison for cannabis use and that any existing convictions should be expunged.

He also said he supported medical use of the drug.

One study has claimed cannabis may be the opposite of a gateway drug, as it could prevent people from becoming hooked on potentially dangerous prescription drugs.

Two thirds of Americans and 78 per cent of Democrat or Democrat-leaning voters believe cannabis use should be legal, according to Pew Research Centre.

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