Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden seemed to mock the concept of drug testing in an interview published on Wednesday, despite his role in advancing drug testing expansion legislation during his time in the Senate.
Pressed on whether he’s taken a cognitive test like President Trump has, Biden scoffed at the question and made the drug testing comparison.
“No I haven’t taken a test. Why the hell would I take a test? C’mon man,” he said.
“That’s like saying, ‘You—before you got on this program did you take a test whether you’re taking cocaine or not, what do you think? Huh? Are you a junkie?'” he added, directing the hypothetical question to interviewer Errol Barnett of CBS News.
“Are you a junkie?”
VP Biden compares cognitive testing to drug tests in exchange with me airing in full at #NABJNAHJ20 Thursday.
What do you make of the comparison and his answer to the question? https://t.co/1X7leSQlGi
— errol barnett (@errolbarnett) August 5, 2020
The Trump reelection campaign has already seized on the clip, though their focus seems to be on casting Biden as mentally unfit rather than calling out the drug policy messaging itself. That said, the campaign has repeatedly blasted Biden’s record on the issue, calling him the “architect” of the drug war and attempting to frame Trump as the criminal justice reform candidate.
BIDEN: "No, I haven't taken a test. Why the hell would I take a test? C'mon man. That's like saying you, before you got in this program, if you take a test where you're taking cocaine or not, what do you think huh? Are you a junkie?" pic.twitter.com/f6UMPJq381
— Trump War Room – Text TRUMP to 88022 (@TrumpWarRoom) August 5, 2020
Even the White House’s spiritual advisor recently took a hit at Biden over his role in advancing marijuana criminalization.
While Trump signed modest sentencing reform legislation into law and has granted clemency to a handful of people for federal drug offenses, his administration has also taken several hostile actions when it comes to marijuana policy.
In any case, Biden’s new dismissive remarks about a policy he’s historically supported, coupled with the pejorative use of the term “junkie,” are puzzling to drug policy reform advocates, who have widely criticized the former vice president for his record pushing numerous, punitive anti-drug bills.
In 1993, Biden filed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, legislation that would have required the director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts to establish a drug testing program for federal offenders on “post-conviction release.”
That was enacted as part of the infamous 1994 crime bill that the then-senator helped author.
Another bill he introduced in 1990 called for a requirement that people pass a drug test as a condition of probation or parole before a sentence is imposed, and also subsequently submit to at least two drug tests.
What’s more, while Biden’s remarks seem dismissive about the role of drug testing, it did have a direct impact on his personal life after his son Hunter was kicked out of the military after testing positive for cocaine.
The former vice president has faced intense pressure from advocates to embrace a bold drug policy platform. But while he’s made several reform proposal such as marijuana decriminalization, medical cannabis legalization, possession expungements and letting states set their own policies, he’s refused to support adult-use legalization despite supermajority Democratic support for the change.
Some advocates suspect that it was that opposition that led to a Democratic National Committee platform committee vote against an amendment last month that would have made legalization a 20202 party plank.
Photo courtesy of Flickr/Marc Nozell.