Donald Trump & Joe Biden’s Shambolic First Debate Leaves No Room For Marijuana Reform

by Andrew Ward

A night that will likely be regarded as one of the darkest, most shambolic public displays of American politics is in the books. The black eye on civility and decorum featured a slew of bold and often reckless claims, as well as frequent puffing of chests and reminders from moderator Chris Wallace not to interrupt.

What wasn’t featured at all was cannabis reform. Most in the know on cannabis or politics assumed that this would be the case. While correct, several issues discussed during the two-plus-hour event have ties to marijuana in one form or another, as tangentially as they may seem. 

With moments in the night dedicated to discussing drugs, healthcare and policing, viewers could gather some understanding as to where both President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden stand on several issues. That is, if viewers could sift through the spectacle that was this evening. 

SCOTUS, Healthcare Leave No Room For Cannabis Reform

The night’s first topic centered on Trump’s recent nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. The focus of the segment explored the fairness of the nomination during the election season. As was Trump’s wondering if the Democrats would do the same thing if they had the power Republicans currently hold, assuming they would. The segment then delved into each candidate’s stance on the Affordable Care Act, medical costs, and the public option. 

Healthcare would lead to the second topic of the evening, the COVID-19 pandemic. Once again, cannabis did not come up. While unsurprising, its omission did leave out the essential status much of the legal marijuana market received during the pandemic. Numbers have not been made available to date, but there is some belief that cannabis could aid in post-COVID economic relief.  

While Trump and Biden debated over who would have handled the situation better, each slung mud, with Trump accusing Biden of mismanaging the H1N1 virus crisis while in office. Biden countered, saying Trump shut down the economy while being responsible for the country’s 200,000 and counting dead. Trump refuted the claim, saying Biden wanted to shut the U.S. down once again over the virus. 

The slim, momentary chance to bring up cannabis in economic recovery quickly faded as the focus shifted to a potential virus vaccine. When Wallace asked the President if he disagreed with doctors in his administration saying a vaccine will take time, Trump said, “They can go faster than that by a lot… it’s become political.” 

The Economy Presents The Vaguest Of Drug References

As Wallace did his best to keep a careening debate on some sort of a track, the night shifted toward the economy. It was during this segment that President Trump was the first to mention drug abuse in passing terms. When discussing the effects of a country-wide pandemic shutdown, Trump said, “You look at what’s going on with alcoholism and drugs; it’s a very sad thing.” 

While the numbers project legal cannabis to continue growing into a bonafide behemoth of a market, the issue was not discussed by either candidate. Instead, the focus shifted from COVID-19 to President Trump’s recent tax allegations, including claims he paid just $750 in personal taxes in 2016 and 2017, which he refuted. 

Once again, Trump assured the public it would see his taxes once he was allowed. Not long after, Trump and Biden would verbally joust again, with the former Vice President calling Trump the worst President in the country’s history. The President would respond, claiming he did more for the country in 40-some months in office than Biden had in over four decades of lawmaking. 

The segment would close with the candidates sparring over Joe Biden’s son, Hunter. With both Wallace and Biden showing frustration over repeated interjections, the Democratic nominee said, “It’s hard to get a word in with this clown- person,” at one point. Not long after, Wallace would scold the candidates for interrupting so frequently–to which Trump said Biden was doing as much as he was. 

Race & Police Justice Discussed

Cannabis remained out of the discussion during questions concerning racial justice and policing. That said, much was to be taken away from each subject. Biden called for equitable justice, saying America failed to reach that goal while never giving up until Trump came to power. 

In response, Trump brought up Biden’s support of tough on crime bills. He’d mention Biden’s previous use of the term ‘superpredator’ and its lasting effect on people and communities, mostly Black and minority-based. The two would debate their merits, with Biden responding, saying Trump has not done anything to address the high rate of Black deaths during the ongoing pandemic.  

After blasting Biden for his support of crime bills, Trump alleged that Biden was also anti-law and order, saying the former VP could not voice support for police without losing support from the progressive left. 

“You don’t want to say anything about law and order. The people of this country demand law and order, and you’re afraid to say it,” said Trump

The two would continue discussing race and policing, touching on Biden’s belief that systemic racism is alive in the country. At the same time, questions surrounding President Trump’s ending of racial training courses at federal agencies were discussed. The President responded, saying he ended the programs and alleging they were racist. 

Biden’s support for law enforcement came up once again when discussing spikes in crime in American cities. Biden said he did not agree with the Defund the Police movement, saying he supported “Law and order with justice where people get treated fairly,” as well as calls for community-based policing. 

Family History Allows For Brief Addiction Discussion

It was late in the evening when drug addiction, not cannabis reform, would enter the spotlight. During a tense exchange asking why voters should elect them over the other, Biden’s son, Hunter, came up during a point about the military. The President claimed Hunter Biden was dishonorably discharged from the military for his cocaine use. In 2014, it was reported that cocaine was the cause of the younger Biden’s military discharge. 

Biden, refuting the claim, stood by his son. “Like a lot of people you know at home, my son had a drug problem,” said Biden. “He’s overtaken it. He’s fixed it. He’s worked on it, and I’m proud of him. I’m proud of my son.” 

The addiction acknowledgment would be the last drug reference made in the evening. While disappointing to legalization proponents, the lack of marijuana-centric topics is expected. Both candidates are on the conservative side of drug policy, and the country faces an array of pressing issues from healthcare to the environment to the economy to voter integrity. With a bevy of country-defining problems on deck, marijuana could very well likely receive little to no air time during the debates. Maybe the subject would come up in a year not so shambolic and dark, but that wouldn’t be 2020, now would it? 

The next debate will feature Vice President Mike Pence and candidate Kamala Harris on October 7, 2020. Trump and Biden will debate two more times on October 15 and 22. 

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