Published on August, 8, 2019 Contributors: Alyssa Piersimoni and Matt Hull
With the democratic primaries underway, many people are tuning in on what potential democratic nominees will do for the United States if elected President. The recent CNN Democratic Presidential Debates in Detroit included 20 of the 25 nominees. Each have various views on important topics like climate change, the economy, education and various others. A rather controversial topic is the legalization of cannabis.
Senator Warren has advocated to get cannabis legalized for quite some time. In 2016 she didn’t support Massachusetts’s bill to legalize cannabis, but she was the lead sponsor of Strengthening The Tenth Amendment Entrusting States (STATES) Act. This act would prevent federal regulations to effect state-legal cannabis activity.
Warren has also co-sponsored and signed bills that would expunge the criminal records of people who were in possession of cannabis as well as expand medical research on the plant.
U.S. Senator Kamala Harris stated at the NAACP National Convention in Detroit that she was for the legalization and decriminalization of cannabis. She also said that she would propose that those that have been incarcerated for the sale of marijuana should be the first in line for jobs in the now booming cannabis industry.
However, as attorney general of California, Harris opposed legalizing cannabis and called it “a flawed public policy.”
Venture for America tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang has not only called for legalization but for a pardoning of the people who were incarcerated for non-violent drug offenses.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee originally opposed the legalization of cannabis in his state. But since then, he has become an advocate for the reform of cannabis at the federal level. He signed various bills that protect medical marijuana from federal intervention and most recently pardoned thousands of individuals convicted of misdemeanor possession charges.
Former U.S. representative Beto O’Rourke is a supporter of cannabis legalization. He hopes that in legalizing cannabis, it will lead to a reduction in incarceration rates. While in Congress, O’Rourke cosponsored multiple drug reform bills that focused on federal hemp and cannabis laws and also signed legislation to end marijuana prohibition.
Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado used to be against cannabis and did not support Colorado’s legalization in 2012. He has since changed his views and has become a supporter of cannabis. He supported the STATES act and recently co-signed The Marijuana Justice Act of 2019.
Bennet was also a chief sponsor of a bill in 2017 that allowed industrial hemp farmers to have access to federally controlled water. In 2018 he stated, “We see hemp as a great opportunity to diversity our farms and manufacture high-margin products for the American people.”
Buttigieg has stated that he is a supporter of cannabis legalization. Despite not working on any cannabis-related legislation as Mayor in South Bend, Indiana, Buttigieg has proposed “The Douglass Plan,” which is a criminal justice reform that focuses on the black community and includes the legalization of marijuana as well as conviction expungement.
Despite being the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Obama, Julian Castro wasn’t involved in any cannabis legislation. He hasn’t been clear on his stance but has shown partial support via social media, discouraging the federal government from going harder on those with recreational marijuana crimes.
New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, like many others, supports legalization and the expungement of criminal records. He was the head sponsor of the Marijuana Justice Act. Like Bernie Sanders, Booker also believes the “War on Drugs” campaign was a failure. The act would support a grant program that would invest in communities that were targets of the failed campaign and would penalize states for discriminatory marijuana enforcement.
Former Governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper was not a supporter of cannabis when starting as governor. He opposed legalization efforts and considered cannabis to be a gateway drug.
He has since changed his views and signed many cannabis reform laws but is still not the biggest fan of national legalization.
Former Vice President Joe Biden doesn’t support a full legalization of cannabis but does support decriminalizing it. He has proposed reducing the incarceration rates of people convicted of possessing cannabis. However, he has been criticized on his stance back in 1994; Biden wrote the 1994 crime bill that resulted in a substantial increase of incarceration rates, including arrests for possession of cannabis.
Author Marianne Williamson hasn’t made cannabis a main focus of her campaign, but has somewhat shown support via social media.
Senator Amy Klobuchar co-sponsored the STATES Act with Elizabeth Warren but has gone back and forth on her actual stance on the legalization of marijuana in previous years. After joining the presidential race, she said she now supports legalizing recreational use of marijuana.
Governor Steve Bullock of Montana has supported medical marijuana. His views on recreational use for cannabis are uncertain, but his statements to the public suggest he is not in favor of recreational cannabis.
Hawaii United States representative Tulsi Gabbard has been a constant supporter of marijuana legislation on the house floor. She has sponsored and co-sponsored bills that call for the removal of cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act as well as cannabis reform.
Senator Bernie Sanders is one of the strongest supporters of cannabis that is running in this election. His campaign’s drug policy states that the “War on Drugs” is a “costly, destructive and ineffective policy.” He has supported numerous bills to reform cannabis regulation, including a 1995 bill to legalize and regulate medical marijuana and is currently one of the chief sponsors of the Marijuana Justice Act.
Ryan has been a supporter of marijuana and hemp-related amendments since becoming the U.S. representative of Ohio in 2003. He was a co-sponsor of the Marijuana Justice Act and is also in favor of removing hemp from the Controlled Substances Act.
In July 2018, Ryan called for a full national legalization in a CNN op-ed article. He wrote, “We have ignored the social and economic toll of our marijuana laws for too long. It is morally wrong, economically nonsensical, and an unnecessary strain on our already strained law enforcement officials.”
Former U.S. representative John Delaney has not been vocal about the legalization of cannabis and has not sponsored any cannabis legislation. However, he does have a consistent voting record of being in favor of cannabis reform.
Senator Kristen Gillibrand has been an advocate for medical marijuana since 2014. She has supported the Marijuana Justice Act, co-sponsored bills that voted for medical marijuana laws to be protected and supported medicinal cannabis research. Gillibrand is also one of the few candidates to have a full legalization plan.
In 2018 she wrote to the Attorney General and said, “Sadly, as you will hear from my constituents, for decades, the so-called ‘war on drugs’ has not been pursued with equality. Legalization is a criminal justice issue, a health care issue, and an economic issue. It’s past time to make this happen at the federal level.”
NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio has been an advocate for reducing marijuana-related arrests but wasn’t in favor of recreational use until this past December.
He stated, “I have been convinced that we can establish a regulatory framework that keeps our streets safe, rights the wrongs of the past, and gives economic opportunity to communities hit hardest by the war on drugs.”