Former Vice President Joe Biden remains opposed to legalizing marijuana but said through a spokesperson on Thursday that he supports decriminalizing cannabis, expunging the records of individuals with prior possession convictions and letting states set their own policies.
He also would move to reclassify marijuana under federal law to Schedule II—a slightly less restrictive designation than its current Schedule I status—a move that would remove some roadblocks to research on the drug.
The 2020 Democratic presidential candidate has taken heat from drug policy reform advocates over his long-standing opposition to modernizing the country’s marijuana laws and for his role in championing legislation to ratchet up the war on drugs.
As recently as April, Biden applauded professor who dismissed the idea that cannabis can be used as an alternative to opioid painkillers.
But in a new statement to CNN, a spokesperson for the former vice president said that he now “supports decriminalizing marijuana and automatically expunging prior criminal records for marijuana possession, so those affected don’t have to figure out how to petition for it or pay for a lawyer.”
“He would allow states to continue to make their own choices regarding legalization and would seek to make it easier to conduct research on marijuana’s positive and negative health impacts by rescheduling it as a schedule 2 drug,” the representative said.
This marks a somewhat significant development for Biden, who helped craft some of the most consequential anti-drug laws during his time as a senator and who declined to pursue decriminalization or rescheduling while serving as the de facto criminal justice portfolio manager for the Obama White House.