Sen. Cory Booker slammed Joe Biden for not supporting marijuana legalization, telling the former vice president, "I thought you might have been high," and pointing out the harm existing marijuana policies have done to minority communities.
Biden last week said he would not push for federal legalization of the drug and called for more research on whether marijuana could act as a "gateway" to other drug use.
At Wednesday's Democratic debate, Booker called out Biden for that view — prompting Biden to awkwardly defend his history of support from black voters.
"Marijuana in our country is already legal for privileged people," Booker said. "The war on drugs has been a war on black and brown people."
"This week I hear him literally say that, 'I don't think we should legalize marijuana,'" Booker continued. "I thought you might have been high when you said it."
The comment elicited laughs from the crowd and an evident look at surprise from Biden, a leading contender in the race to become the Democratic candidate, thanks in part to high approval ratings from black voters.
Booker argued legalization of marijuana was not just a matter of drug use, but a central issue of race as minorities have been disproportionately incarcerated over drug offenses.
"These are the kinds of issues that mean a lot to our community," Booker said.
At Biden's recent town hall, he said though he wasn't ready to legalize marijuana on a national level, he supported states' decision to do so.
"There's not nearly enough evidence that has been acquired as to whether or not it is a gateway drug," Biden said at the town hall. "I want a lot more before I legalize nationally. I want to make sure we know a lot more about the science behind it."
On Wednesday night, Biden gave a much different answer.
"I think we should decriminalize marijuana, period," Biden responded to Booker. "I think anyone who has a record should be let out of jail, their records expunged, completely zeroed out."
Booker's remarks also prompted Biden to defend his record in support of the black community.
"I am part of that Obama coalition," Biden said. "I come out for the black community in terms of my support."
Biden's defense of his record, however, led to a gaffe on live television as the former vice president listed the black leaders who have supported his campaign.
Three former chairs of the Congressional Black Caucus have offered support for him, Biden said, as well as, "the only African American woman who'd ever been elected to the United States Senate."
Biden was referencing former senator Carol Moseley Braun from Illinois, the first black woman elected to the Senate, who has endorsed Biden's campaign.
But Moseley Braun is not the only black woman who has been elected to the Senate — and the other was onstage on Wednesday.
"That's not true," Booker said.
Sen. Kamala Harris, standing two podiums to the left of the former vice president, also tried to correct Biden.
"The other one is here," she said.