Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN), a 2024 Democratic presidential candidate, didn’t “literally” mean it when he said President Joe Biden should smoke some marijuana earlier this month, he now says.
“Truth is I wouldn’t recommend he start now,” the congressman said on Tuesday, reversing the tongue-in-cheek comments he made at a New Hampshire campaign event, where he also cast doubt on whether the president has smoked “or even smelled weed.”
At the time, he said indulging in some cannabis might help Biden understand the “awfully hypocritical” position of barring people from White House employment over eating a marijuana gummy when they could, in theory, “drink a half gallon of Jack Daniels at night and report to work” the next day without penalties.
While Phillips has now reframed his recommendation for Biden to use cannabis, he said that points stands that “it’s absolutely absurd that a naturally occurring plant on which no human has overdosed remains a Schedule I narcotic in America.”
“It should be legalized immediately and turned over to the States for regulation,” he said.
What prompted the reversal seems to be a Politico story about Phillips’s campaign that led with his earlier cannabis comment in the story and headline, which was subsequently pictured in a screenshot on the satirical X account “New York Times Pitchbot.”
The congressman also separately told Politico that his suggestion that the president begin toking up wasn’t meant to be taken “literally.”
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.
“Cannabis is still a Schedule I narcotic in the United States of America, like heroin. It’s nonsensical,” Phillips said this month. “But this is your federal government, with people who think that’s fine.”
The congressman’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 recent Gallup poll showing support for marijuana legalization at a record 70 percent high. That includes 87 percent of Democrats.
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