We’re 586 days away from the 2020 election, but the field of contenders is already crowded. Where do the major candidates stand on the issue of cannabis legalization?
First, let’s look at a few pertinent facts and terms.
- A major study conducted by Gallup in 2018 indicates that 66% of Americans now support legalizing marijuana – and for the first time, a slim majority (53%) of Republicans agree. Given this fact, supporting legalization at the federal level is no longer a boondoggle.
- There are two major acts currently before Congress that are referenced in this article.
- The Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act, S.3032, was a bill proposed in the 115th United States Congress that would recognize legalization of cannabis and the U.S. state laws that have legalized it through their legislatures or citizen initiative. It was introduced on June 7, 2018 by Senators Cory Gardner (Republican from Colorado) and Elizabeth Warren (Democrat from Massachusetts).
- The Marijuana Justice Act was described by NORML Political Director Justin Strekal as, “The most comprehensive piece of federal legislation ever introduced to end the failed policy of marijuana prohibition and to address the egregious harms that this policy has wrought on already marginalized communities.” Introduced by New Jersey Democratic Senator Cory Booker, the act would legalize marijuana federally.
Now, on to the candidates’ stances.
Unless something changes quite drastically, President Trump will be representing the Republicans, and his stance on the issue is unclear. While running for president in 2015, Trump was asked about Colorado’s legalization of recreational marijuana, and his reply was pretty adamant. “I think it’s bad, and I feel strongly about it.” He’s since sent mixed signals on the issue, and all signs point to inaction at the federal level as long as he’s in office.
Among the Democratic candidates, the story’s very different. Here’s a look at where the top contenders (listed alphabetically by first name) among the Dems stand on the issue.
- Amy Klobuchar: The Minnesota Senator is generally considered a centrist. She has signed onto the STATES Act, but not onto the Marijuana Justice Act. In 2016, NORML (the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws) gave her a “D” rating, indicating a “hard on drugs” stance.
- Bernie Sanders: Sanders, a Vermont Senator, has been a longtime advocate of marijuana reform. He is a cosponsor of the Marijuana Justice Act and has called for banking reform that would make it easier for cannabis businesses to operate.
- Beto O’Rourke: The former Democratic Congressman hails from Texas, one of the most conservative and anti-marijuana states in the country. In spite of that, he supports federal legalization and was given a “B+” rating by NORML.
- Cory Booker: The New Jersey Senator is the author of the Marijuana Justice Act and a longtime advocate of marijuana reform. Booker has a long record of supporting legalization. In 2012, when he was serving as mayor of Newark, New Jersey, he wrote, “The so-called War on Drugs has not succeeded in making significant reductions in drug use, drug arrests or violence. We are pouring huge amounts of our public resources into this current effort that are bleeding our public treasury and unnecessarily undermining human potential.” Unsurprisingly, NORML gave him an “A+” rating.
- Elizabeth Warren: Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is another vocal advocate for legalization. She’s one of the lead sponsors of the STATES Act and has signed onto the Marijuana Justice Act. Along with Sanders, she supports cannabis-related banking reform. NORML gave her a “B” rating.
- John Hickenlooper: The former Colorado Governor has a lot of experience with marijuana legislation, as he was in office when the state legalized recreational sales – a decision that he described as “reckless.” However, he does support the STATES Act. NORML gave him a “B” rating. For a comprehensive look at Hickenlooper’s fluctuating stance on cannabis, check out this article from Marijuana Moment.
- Kamala Harris: California Senator Kamala Harris is another candidate whose views on cannabis have evolved over time. In 2010, as the district attorney of San Francisco, she supported medical marijuana legalization, but not recreational. But in her book published earlier this year, she wrote, “We need to legalize marijuana and regulate it, and we need to expunge nonviolent marijuana-related offenses from the records of the millions of people who have been arrested and incarcerated so they can get on with their lives.”
- Kristen Gillibrand: Hailing from the state of New York, Senator Gillibrand also advocates for legalization. She has signed onto the Marijuana Justice Act and has been outspoken in her support. In January of 2018, she tweeted, “Our country is in the midst of an opioid crisis and the AG is going to divert resources to cracking down on medical marijuana? This is either willfully ignorant or cowing to corporate greed on behalf of pharma special interest profits. DOJ should investigate how pharma helped create the opioid crisis, not institute policies that take marijuana-based medicines from patients and needlessly target non-violent minority youths.”
- Pete Buttigieg: The mayor of South Bend, Indiana hasn’t spoken much about cannabis policy. He did, however, tell The Boston Globe, “The safe, regulated, and legal sale of marijuana is an idea whose time has come for the United States, as evidenced by voters demanding legalization in states across the country.”
There’s a lot at stake in the 2020 presidential race, and still plenty of time to choose your candidate. The Green Solution encourages you to keep your voter registration up to date and to vote for the candidate who best represents your values.