Vice President Joe Biden Not High on Marijuana Legalization

Vice President Joe Biden listens to remarks at a news conference, Feb. 6, 2014, at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia.
Vice President Joe Biden listens to remarks at a news conference, Feb. 6, 2014, at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia. Matt Rourke / AP

In an exclusive interview with TIME, the Vice President also defends his record on criminal-justice reform

The Obama Administration is not pushing marijuana legalization on the federal level, Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday in an exclusive interview with TIME.

Just weeks after President Barack Obama told the New Yorker that the drug is no more dangerous than alcohol, Biden said the Administration supports smarter enforcement, but not outright legalization. “I think the idea of focusing significant resources on interdicting or convicting people for smoking marijuana is a waste of our resources,” Biden told TIME in an interview aboard an Amtrak train on the way to an event in Philadelphia. “That’s different than [legalization]. Our policy for our Administration is still not legalization, and that is [and] continues to be our policy.”

The outspoken lawmaker, who came out in support of gay marriage before his boss, was reserved on the subject, taking caution not to get out ahead of Obama. Biden’s position is essentially unchanged from a 2010 interview with ABC News in which he called marijuana a “gateway drug.”

In the interview with David Remnick, Obama said “it’s important for” legalization to go forward in Colorado and Washington, because of racial and economic disparities in enforcement. Asked about Obama’s comments, Biden said, “Look, I support the President’s policy.” The President put the brakes on calls for executive action to legalize marijuana in an interview with CNN last week, saying it was a decision for Congress, not the White House.

In the Senate, Biden was on the forefront of the Democratic Party’s war on crime, authoring or co-sponsoring legislation that created the federal “drug czar” and mandatory minimum sentencing for marijuana and the sentencing disparity for crack and powder cocaine.

“I am not only the guy who did the crime bill and the drug czar, but I’m also the guy who spent years when I was chairman of the Judiciary Committee and chairman of [the Senate Foreign Relations Committee] trying to change drug policy relative to cocaine, for example, crack and powder,” Biden says.

More from the interview will be published in the coming days on TIME.com.

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