Biden’s record as a drug warrior is so appalling that Trump has attacked him from the left on the issue. “Anyone associated with the 1994 Crime Bill will not have a chance of being elected,” the president tweeted last year. “In particular, African Americans will not be able to vote for you. I, on the other hand, was responsible for Criminal Justice Reform, which had tremendous support, & helped fix the bad 1994 Bill!” Trump was alluding to the FIRST STEP Act, a package of modest reforms that he signed in 2018.
“Mass incarceration has put hundreds of thousands behind bars for minor offenses,” says a Trump campaign video released in May. “Joe Biden wrote those laws.” In a June 2 blog post, the campaign slammed Biden as “the chief architect of mass incarceration and the War on Drugs, which targeted Black Americans.”
Today Biden portrays himself as a criminal justice reformer, calling for the abolition of the mandatory minimums and death penalties he once championed. He also says the federal government should let states legalize pot. But unlike most of the candidates he beat for the Democratic nomination, he resists repealing the national ban on marijuana, saying he is waiting for science to clarify “whether or not it is a gateway drug”—a rationale for prohibition that drug warriors have been citing for 70 years.