Biden backs marijuana decriminalization, not legalization, despite widespread support among Dems

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Chris Sommerfeldt, New York Daily News
·2 min read
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Don’t count on Joe Biden to get the ball rolling on marijuana legalization.

The president believes weed should be decriminalized — not legalized — on a federal level, a White House official said Tuesday, putting him out of step with many prominent Democrats in Congress.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki made the sticky distinction after being asked during her daily briefing if Biden backs an effort floated by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to scrap the federal prohibition on the sale and usage of marijuana.

“He believes in decriminalizing the use of marijuana, but his position has not changed,” Psaki told reporters. “That’s been his position. Nothing has changed.”

The decriminalization of a drug would remove criminal penalties for possession and sale.

However, when a drug is decriminalized, it still remains illegal in the eyes of the law, meaning offenders remain subject to fines or other civil punishments.

Schumer and many other Democrats say decriminalization is not enough.

The New York senator announced last month he would introduce “comprehensive cannabis reform legislation” later this year with fellow Democratic Sens. Corey Booker of New Jersey and Ron Wyden of Oregon.

The goal, they said, is to end “the federal marijuana prohibition” so it does not stand in the way as many states, including New York, move to legalize the drug on a state level.

“But that alone is not enough. As states continue to legalize marijuana, we must also enact measures that will lift up people who were unfairly targeted in the War on Drugs,” the three senators added, noting that Black and Hispanic Americans have historically faced disproportionately harsher penalties for weed usage and possession.

The Schumer effort has received support from many Democrats on Capitol Hill — and even some Republicans.

A Schumer spokesman declined to comment on Psaki’s demurral.

Still, Schumer cheered on legislators in New York as they took the first step Tuesday to pass a bill that would legalize the sale, usage and cultivation of recreational marijuana in the Empire State.

“I’m proud to see leaders in Albany keeping front and center the effort to repair harm done by prohibition,” Schumer tweeted. “And I will keep working to end the federal marijuana prohibition.”