President Joe Biden should smoke marijuana to better understand the country’s “awfully hypocritical” double standard that allows people to drink alcohol and work at the White House but face potential imprisonment over cannabis, says Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN), a 2024 Democratic presidential candidate who’s mounting a primary challenge against the incumbent. During a town hall
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President Joe Biden should smoke marijuana to better understand the country’s “awfully hypocritical” double standard that allows people to drink alcohol and work at the White House but face potential imprisonment over cannabis, says Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN), a 2024 Democratic presidential candidate who’s mounting a primary challenge against the incumbent.
During a town hall event in New Hampshire last week, Phillips noted Ohio’s recent vote to end marijuana prohibition, contrasting that with Biden’s ongoing opposition to adult-use legalization. The congressman said he’s “sure” that Biden “has never even smelled weed, let alone smoked it.”
“The fact of the matter is, I think he should,” Phillips said, “because he would find it awfully hypocritical that you can drink a half gallon of Jack Daniels at night and report to work in his White House—but if you ate a [cannabis] gummy and it was discovered, you’d be fired and maybe even imprisoned because you’re breaking federal law.”
“But no problem with the person who drinks a half gallon of Jack Daniels and comes to the White House in the morning,” he reiterated. “It’s hypocritical. It’s nonsensical. We have too many people, frankly, who are so out of touch and so old and so unbelievably ignorant of the reality that it has got to change.”
Indeed, early in the Biden administration, the White House faced criticism over its decision to fire or otherwise punish dozens of staffers who admitted to prior marijuana use as part of their background checks. The White House attempted to downplay the action, asserting that nobody was fired for “marijuana usage from years ago,” nor was anyone terminated “due to casual or infrequent use during the prior 12 months.”
Phillips, who announced his run for the Democratic presidential nomination late last month, has a consistent record supporting broad drug policy reform in Congress. He’s supported federal marijuana legalization, pushed the Biden administration to provide relief to those who’ve been criminalized over cannabis and advocated for research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics.
That latter policy also came up during his town hall event, with the congressman saying he’s talked with military veterans “whose lives have improved so dramatically from PTSD just by microdosing psilocybin—and right now we can’t even test it.”
While numerous federal health officials have argued that the Schedule I status of psychedelics and marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) imposes serious access barriers that’s stymied research into their therapeutic potential, it is possible under the current regulatory framework to test them, as a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) official recently testified in a first-ever congressional hearing on psychedelics-assisted therapy for veterans.
“Cannabis is still a Schedule I narcotic in the United States of America, like heroin. It’s nonsensical,” Phillips continued. “But this is your federal government, with people who think that’s fine.”
He added that he’s thankful that politicians didn’t get to decide on the Ohio marijuana measure or a separate abortion rights initiative that passed at the ballot last week.
“What I’m here to tell you is I think you should matter—not what some damn people sitting in Washington, D.C. who think they know better should matter,” he said. “That’s the power I want to return to all of you, and I will do it fiercely. I will do it with grace. And rest assured, I will do it with strength.”
Phillips’s commentary on drug policy issues aligns with his voting record, which shows ongoing support for reform across the board—including incremental measures on marijuana banking, as well as more comprehensive proposals to end federal cannabis prohibition while promoting social equity.
He’s said that while he thinks the president has done an effective job to date, Biden’s slumping poll numbers raise concerns about his viability in the election, and he’s hoping to offer an alternative pathway for Democrats.
While Biden has steadfastly maintained his opposition to adult-use marijuana legalization—a position that the White House affirmed has not changed since Ohio voted to enact the reform—he did grant a mass pardon for people who’ve committed federal cannabis possession offenses last year, while also directing an administrative review into marijuana scheduling.
That directive resulted in a recommendation from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to move marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III under the CSA. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is now reviewing the health agency’s findings as it prepares to make a final scheduling determination.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), a founding member of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus who is retiring after the end of this Congress, recently told Marijuana Moment that, if he were Biden, he would act more boldly to end cannabis criminalization ahead of next year’s election, in part to “atone” for his record championing punitive drug policies during his time in the Senate.
Phillips’s position on the issue, meanwhile, closely aligns with the majority public opinion, with a new Gallup poll showing support for marijuana legalization at a record 70 percent high. That includes 87 percent of Democrats.