Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey criticized former Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday for his recent comments opposing the legalization of marijuana on the federal level.
“I thought you might have been high when you said it,” Booker said, drawing laughs from the crowd at the Democratic presidential debate hosted by MSNBC and The Washington Post.
Booker said black voters are “pissed off” and worried about the Democratic Party losing to President Donald Trump in next year’s presidential election “because we are nominating someone that doesn’t, isn’t trusted, doesn’t have authentic connection,” though he didn’t mention anyone by name.
“That’s what’s on the ballot, and issues do matter,” Booker said – then he launched into his criticism of Biden’s recent comments about marijuana.
Booker said marijuana in America is “already legal for privileged people” and that “the war on drugs has been a war on black and brown people.” He noted that current members of Congress have admitted to smoking marijuana and, in the meantime, “our kids are in jail right now for those drug crimes.”
Biden at the debate defended his position, which is at odds with those of the other leading contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination. Polls have shown that marijuana legalization is broadly popular with Democratic primary voters and the general electorate.
Biden said he believes marijuana should be decriminalized and that “anyone who has a record should be let out of jail, their records expunged, completely zeroed out.” Decriminalization of marijuana does not make the drug legal but places it among the lowest priorities for law enforcement.
“But I do think it makes sense based on data that we should study what the long-term effects are for the use of marijuana, that’s all it is,” Biden said.
Biden, who currently has unmatched support among black voters in the 2020 field, claimed on Wednesday that he was part of the “Obama coalition.”
“I come out of the black community in terms of my support,” Biden said. “If you notice, I have more people supporting me in the black community … because they know me. They know who I am.”
“Three former chairs of the black caucus, the only African American woman that had ever been elected to the United States Senate. A whole range of people,” Biden said.
Sen. Kamala Harris of California interjected: “No, that’s not true. The other one is here,” which was met by laughs. Biden noted that he meant to say “first” African American woman elected. He was referring to former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois, who is a vocal supporter of his.
Biden said that one of the reasons he was picked to be former President Barack Obama’s vice president was because of his “long-standing relationship with the black community.”