Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took issue Tuesday with Democratic presidential front-runner Joseph R. Biden over his reasoning for being reluctant to federally legalize marijuana.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, New York Democrat, said Mr. Biden’s remark was “risky” and compared his explanation for opposing marijuana legalization with the anti-drug policies pursued under the Republican administration of former President Ronald Reagan.
“These are Reagan-era talking points that were behind one of the worst and most shameful phases of American policy, which is mass incarceration,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said in an interview, the Marijuana Moment website reported.
“That needs to end, marijuana needs to be legalized, drugs need to be decriminalized for consumption,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said, according to the website. “These are very simple issues of public health.”
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, a first-term congresswoman known for her progressive policies, was reacting specifically to remarks Mr. Biden made over the weekend about marijuana legalization.
“There’s not nearly been enough evidence that has been acquired as to whether or not it is a gateway drug,” Mr. Biden said Saturday about marijuana. “It’s a debate, and I want a lot more — before I legalize it nationally — I want to make sure we know a lot more about the science behind it.
“It’s not irrational to do more scientific investigations to determine — which we have not done significantly enough — whether or not there are any things that relate to whether it’s a gateway drug or not,” he said. “I don’t know enough to know whether it is.”
Speaking to Marijuana Moment, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez reacted to Mr. Biden’s remark by saying she feels as if “any person who has had, like me, family, friends, neighbors that have been stopped, frisked, incarcerated and trapped in this system would know how risky of a statement that is,” according to the website.
Marijuana is federally prohibited on account of its placement under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act, though most states have passed laws legalizing the plant for medicinal or recreational purposes.
Several bills pending on Capitol Hill would effectively end marijuana prohibition if passed, including a proposal scheduled to be considered Wednesday by members of the House Judiciary Committee. The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement, or MORE, Act, would effectively decriminalize marijuana at the federal level if passed and requires federal courts to void certain related conviction, among other provisions.
Virtually all major candidates seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination to run against Mr. Trump support ending federal marijuana prohibition with the exception of Mr. Biden, who represented Delaware in the U.S. Senate during the entirety of the Reagan administration and its “Say No to Drugs” campaign before serving two terms as Barack Obama’s vice president.
Mr. Biden’s campaign did not immediately return a message seeking its reaction to the congresswoman’s comment.
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