Marijuana: A New Litmus Test For Presidential Wannabes

BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — A CBS Poll conducted the day before 4/20 (the unofficial cannabis holiday) has found a whopping 65 percent of Americans think cannabis should be legalized at the federal level.

Support keeps growing, year over year. Approval is up six percent over 2018, across all ages, genders, and political affiliations.

Cannabis is also an issue that’s likely to sway a lot of young voters, who are growing up without the same stigmatized view as the generations before them.

Legalization is inevitable. So what does our next potential President think is the best way to create a marijuana marketplace?

Here's a rundown of where each candidate stands.

Republicans:

Donald Trump

Quick Answer:

Supports:

  • Legalizing industrial hemp
  • Allowing states to decide their own cannabis laws

Opposes:

  • Full federal cannabis legalization
  • Citizenship for Green Card Holders involved in state-legal cannabis activity

How we know:

Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill with a provision to legalize industrial hemp. He also said he will “probably” support the STATES Act Bill, which would ensure each state has the right to determine for itself the best approach to cannabis within its borders. It would also allow cannabis companies to use federal banks, but it does not federally legalize marijuana.

However, at the same time, the Trump administration is targeting lawful permanent residents within state legal cannabis companies, and those with state legal medical marijuana cards.

A new policy introduced this month says the US Citizenship and Immigration Office will consider anyone who possesses, sells, or makes cannabis to have “violated federal law,” and those with medical cards will be seen as being “morally unfit,” meaning their citizenship applications can be denied.

Bill Weld

Quick Answer:

Supports:

  • Medical marijuana and further research
  • Legalizing Recreational Cannabis in Ohio in 2016
  • Allowing states to decide their own cannabis laws, without federal oversight.

Opposes:

  • Full federal cannabis legalization

How we know:

Weld was Governor of Massachusetts from 1991 to 1997. One year after taking office, he signed a bill into law legalizing medical marijuana for glaucoma, cancer therapy, and certain asthmatic disorders. He also commuted the sentence of a man given 30 days for treating himself with home grown pot.

Weld says the debate over legalization is, at its core, a debate over the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution; saying “if some states don’t want marijuana to be legal, that’s their prerogative. But that shouldn’t be dictated by the nanny state in Washington.”

In 2018, Weld even got involved in the cannabis industry. He joined another former lawmaker and cannabis-opponent-turned-proponent, John Boehner, on the advisory board of one of the biggest cannabis companies in the U.S., Acreage Holdings.

Democrats:

Cory Booker

Quick Answer:

Supports:

  • Full federal cannabis legalization
  • Social justice and prison reform
  • State level financial incentives to stimulate a cannabis economy

How we know:

In early 2019, Senator Booker led the way by introducing “The Marijuana Justice Act,” a bill that would legalize cannabis nationwide, expunge low-level convictions, and allow offenders to petition courts for shorter sentences.

The bill would also provide financial incentives to states to loosen their laws on marijuana, it would invest funds in job training, and other social services in areas hit hardest by The War on Drugs.

Booker also sponsored the bipartisan First Step Act that passed in 2018, which eliminated mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders. In a recent tweet, Cooker said “Let’s make marijuana legal but also invest in undoing the damage done by a war gone horribly wrong.”

Pete Buttigieg

Quick Answer:

Supports:

  • Full federal legalization of cannabis
  • Social justice and prison reform

How we know:

Buttigieg has not signed much in the way of cannabis legislation during his time as Mayor of South Bend, Indiana. That may be because he’s in a state that doesn’t even have medical marijuana.

Talking to the Boston Globe, Buttigieg said “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.”

He also told Indianapolis Monthly that “even in Indiana, criminal justice reform, including marijuana… we’re probably there.”

While he was on the radio show The Breakfast Club, Buttigieg brought up prison reform again, saying “if we decide that it actually doesn’t make sense to incarcerate for unbelievably long amounts of time for non-violent drug offenses, what are we going to do for the people we already did that to?”

Julian Castro

Quick Answer:

Supports:

  • Full federal legalization of cannabis
  • Allowing states to decide their own cannabis laws, without federal oversight.
  • “Restorative Justice”

How we know:

Castro hasn’t said much about marijuana since announcing his run for the White House. But in 2014 he told a local Texas TV station that he hadn’t looked “at the science yet about addiction and what it means, but it’s clearly something that deserves more scrutiny and analysis.”

More recently, he’s tweeted in support of the expungements happening in New York for low-level marijuana offenses.

And on 4/20, he said “while we’re at it, we’ll expunge the records of folks who’ve been incarcerated for using it.”

John Delaney

Quick Answer:

Supports:

  • Medical marijuana
  • Legalizing industrial hemp

How we know:

Delaney has voted for a lot of pro-cannabis and hemp reform measures during his time in Congress.

While he didn’t introduce any legislation, Delaney has consistently voted to support measures like protecting states from federal intervention, getting easier access to medical marijuana for military veterans, and lifting federal restrictions on hemp.

While he hasn’t made any public statements directly on cannabis, Delaney has spoken about prison reform, telling the Boston Globe that current cannabis policy “has contributed to a criminal justice system where people of color are disproportionately harmed.”

Tulsi Gabbard

Quick Answer:

Supports:

  • Full federal legalization of cannabis
  • Medical marijuana, especially for military veterans, opioid abuse
  • Social justice and prison reform

How we know:

Gabbard has co-sponsored and backed a huge number of cannabis related policy since she joined Congress in 2013.

She has supported measures like requiring the federal government to study the impact of state cannabis legalization, removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, withholding federal funds from states that disproportionately enforce cannabis laws, legalizing hemp, protecting banks, and blocking VA doctors from denying patients benefits because they use marijuana.

In her campaign announcement speech, Gabbard made the link between legal cannabis and lowering numbers of opioid related deaths, and puts out regular tweets on the impact of lawmakers who block cannabis legislation without looking at the science.

She's also outspoken on social media about prison reform and social justice around cannabis legalization efforts.

Kirsten Gillibrand

Quick Answer:

Supports:

  • Full federal cannabis legalization
  • Expanding medical marijuana research
  • Social justice and prison reform

How we know:

Gillibrand hasn’t always been at the front of the crowd supporting cannabis reform; while she was in the House from 2007 to 2009, she failed to support any of the cannabis-related bills her colleagues filed. But in recent years, her stance has evolved.

Now, Gillibrand is a co-sponsor to Senator Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act, she’s signed on to protect states with medical marijuana from federal interference, she’s pushed for more medical research, and she’s backing a bill to study how marijuana can help veterans with PTSD.

On social media, Gillibrand has shifted her focus from supporting medical marijuana, to rallying against the pharmaceutical industry, and talking about racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

Mike Gravel

Quick Answer:

Supports:

  • Full federal cannabis legalization
  • Social justice and prison reform

How we know:

The 89-year old former Senator from Alaska has long been a vocal opponent to the War on Drugs, and for the legalization of marijuana. In 2014 Gravel took over as CEO of the cannabis-infusion company KUSH, a subsidiary of Cannabis Sativa Inc.

Gravel has been directing the company to get its medical and recreational cannabis products in states where it’s legal ever since. His website says in part that Gravel “is committed… to rescheduling cannabis, fundamentally reforming out politics through direct democracy… dismantling America’s prison state.”

But he also says he isn’t running to win the White House; he just wants to bring “a critique of American Imperialism the Democratic debate stage.”

Kamala Harris

Quick Answer:

Supports:

  • Full federal cannabis legalization
  • Social justice and prison reform

How we know:

In 2010, then-California Attorney General Harris opposed the state’s early initiative to legalize marijuana.

At the time, she said she only supported legal medical use. In 2014, the man running for her seat said he supported legalization, and Harris replied with a pause, a laugh, and then said “he’s entitled to his opinion.”

But by 2015, Harris was calling for federal decriminalization for medical marijuana. When she got to Congress in 2016, Harris for the first time said she wanted to decriminalize cannabis altogether.

Now, Harris has signed onto Senator Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act, calling for cannabis to be made legal at the federal level.

In her recent book, Harris expands on her view, saying it needs to be legalized and regulated, and non-violent offenses need to be expunged.

After announcing her presidency, Harris even admitted to smoking pot in college, albeit with a hazy memory of the music she was into at the time.

John Hickenlooper

Quick Answer:

Supports:

  • Safe cannabis banking measures

Opposes:

  • Recreational legalization in Colorado in 2012
  • Home growing and delivery services

How we know:

Hickenlooper was Colorado’s governor when voters legalized recreational pot in 2012. He strongly opposed the ballot measure, calling it “reckless,” but oversaw its successful implementation anyway.

He famously said he would respect the will of the voters, then he added some snark and said “federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug so don’t break out the Cheetos or goldfish too quickly.”

During his time in office Hickenlooper continued to sign bills concerning the state’s cannabis industry, including state level banking for marijuana companies in 2014, and a bill to use marijuana tax revenue for affordable housing units.

But Hickenlooper has also blocked his fair share of measures; in 2017, he withheld his signature from a bill to stimulate medical marijuana research, but it went into effect anyway.

And he has also limited the number of plants an adult can legally grow, and encouraged fellow lawmakers to block delivery services too.

Of all Hickenlooper’s statements on cannabis, this one arguably stands out the most; “Colorado is known for many great things - marijuana should not be one of them.”

Jay Inslee

Quick Answer:

Supports:

  • Full federal cannabis legalization
  • Protecting state-legal medical marijuana from federal intervention
  • Legalizing hemp
  • Social justice and prison reform

How we know:

The Governor of Washington wasn’t always behind legalization. But ever since it passed in his state, he’s been coming to the defense of the cannabis economy.

While Inslee was in the U.S. House, he voted to protect states with legal medical marijuana, and he’s been increasingly outspoken about legalizing nationwide.

Inslee has co-sponsored a bill that would have the Justice Department reschedule cannabis, and he has voted to remove hemp from the federal list of Controlled Substances.

Inslee is also big on safety regulations; he’s signed a bill to slap penalties on anyone consuming cannabis in a moving vehicle, he’s implemented rules to raise public awareness, and to curb youth consumption.

Inslee has lead the way in expunging misdemeanor cannabis convictions dating back to 1998. However, he has also approved bills to limit the number of plants a medical patient can grow.

Amy Klobuchar:

Quick Answer:

Supports:

  • Protecting state-legal cannabis activity from federal intervention
  • Expanding research on CBD and medical marijuana
  • States deciding the best approach to cannabis laws within their borders

How we know:

Klobuchar hasn’t said much about cannabis, but she has signed on to four pieces of related legislation that gives us a glimpse into her beliefs.

Klobuchar agrees with President Trump; she is a cosponsor of the STATES Act which would allow state-legal cannabis activity to be protected from the feds.

She is also on board with a measure to expand cultivation licensees so more medical research can begin, especially for CBD.

Klobuchar is also behind a proposal to remove CBD from the definition of marijuana under federal law, and she has written to former Attorney General Jeff Sessions about the delay in authorizing more growers for research purposes.

As for medical marijuana in Minnesota, Klobuchar says she is all about it. But noticeably, she has not signed on to Senator Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act, which would legalize cannabis at the national level.

Seth Moulton

Quick Answer:

Supports:

  • Full federal cannabis legalization
  • Protecting state-legal cannabis activity from federal intervention
  • Medical Marijuana, especially for Military veterans

How we know:

Moulton has long been a major proponent of medical marijuana, research, and access for veterans.

A Marine Corps vet himself, Moulton is the chief sponsor of three bills that focus on getting veterans easier access to medical cannabis, without backlash from the VA.

He’s also signed onto bills that would remove cannabis from the federal list of Controlled Substances, and would protect state-legal activity. He praised Salem MA for allowing dispensaries inside their borders, and has even admitted to smoking a few times while he was studying at Harvard.

Moulton says “I support legalization, but we do need to make sure it’s done right.”

Beto O’Rourke

Quick Answer:

Supports:

  • Full federal cannabis legalization
  • Social justice and prison reform
  • Expanding medical marijuana research

How we know:

O’Rourke has a long history of supporting cannabis related proposals.

That includes bills that would stop the federal government from withholding funds from states with cannabis laws, bills that automatically seal the criminal records of low-level offenders, and a bill to allow students to keep their federal financial aid if they’re convicted of cannabis possession.

O’Rourke is also on board with expanding medical research for veterans, and allowing VA doctors to recommend cannabis for their patients

patients. He’s also supported efforts to legalize industrial hemp, another to allow cannabis companies access to banking options, and a measure to allow cannabis businesses to take advantage of tax credits and deductions.

O’Rourke has been speaking out against the War on Drugs since before it was cool, he wrote to President Obama in 2014 urging him to deschedule cannabis, and he’s even co-authored a book entitled “Dealing Death and Drugs: The Big Business of Dope in the U.S. and Mexico.”

Tim Ryan

Quick Answer:

Supports:

  • Full federal cannabis legalization
  • Social justice and prison reform
  • Legalizing industrial Hemp

How we know:

While Ryan has stayed relatively quiet about cannabis on social media, he’s been a longtime supporter of dozens of cannabis and hemp related bills in congress.

Since 2003 Ryan has backed measured protecting states with medical marijuana from federal intervention.

He’s cosponsored a bill to federally regulate cannabis like alcohol, a bill to remove hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, and most recently he’s supporting Senator Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act for total legalization nationwide.

Ryan is also down with VA Doctors being allowed to recommend cannabis to veteran patients, and he’s voted in favor of secure banking for marijuana businesses since 2014.

On the social justice front, Ryan has tweeted about the “social and economic toll of our marijuana laws,” on “minority communities,” calling it “morally wrong.”

Bernie Sanders

Quick Answer:

Supports:

  • Full federal cannabis legalization
  • Medical marijuana
  • Social justice and prison reform

How we know:

Sanders was one of the first lawmakers in the nation to support cannabis legalization. Nearly 25 years ago, Sanders signed onto a bill to regulate medical marijuana.

In 2015, he filed the first ever Senate bill to end cannabis prohibition at the federal level.

He’s signed onto Senator Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act, he’s behind reforming hemp laws, and had backed bills to protect banks from federal prosecution if they work with state legal cannabis companies.

When Sanders announced his 2020 campaign, part of his opening lines of his campaign video mentioned making changes to incarceration, ending the destructive War on Drugs, and bringing major reform to police departments.

Sanders is also vocal about the disproportionate impact of cannabis laws on communities of color, and says when “four times as many blacks are arrested for possession as whites, it becomes a racial issue.”

Eric Swalwell

Quick Answer:

Supports:

  • Full federal cannabis legalization
  • Medical marijuana research
  • Social justice and prison reform

How we know:

Swalwell endorsed California’s recreational legalization movement before it passed in 2016.

He’s signed on to at least four pieces of legislation that would deschedule marijuana at the federal level, and he’s supportive of efforts to protect states that have legalized from federal intervention.

Swalwell’s name is also on bills to secure safe banking access for state-legal cannabis companies, and for the VA to research medical marijuana for veterans.

He was also one of the names on a 2014 letter to President Obama about removing cannabis from Schedule one status, and he’s written to former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to question him about blocking licensing for cannabis cultivators for research purposes.

Elizabeth Warren

Quick Answer:

Supports:

  • Full federal cannabis legalization
  • Protecting state-legal cannabis activity from federal intervention
  • States deciding the best approach to cannabis laws within their borders
  • Medical marijuana research

How we know:

Warren is a lead sponsor of the bipartisan STATES Act, which would exempt state-legal cannabis businesses from federal intervention, and it would address cannabis banking issues.

She’s also signed on to some alternative ways of legalization, including Senator Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act which would remove marijuana from the federal list of Controlled Substances and would expunge low-level criminal records to do with cannabis.

And she’s signed the CARERS Act, which protects medical marijuana patients from the feds, and supports cannabis research. Warren hasn't always been supportive of marijuana though.

In 2013 she told voters to watch out for her opponent Dan Winslow, saying “he has a 100 percent ranking from the gun lobby and he’s for the legalization of marijuana. He wants us armed and stoned.”

While Warren has not had the chance to vote on any cannabis related bills in the Senate, she has written to several Trump-appointed officials to ask the administration to consider legalizing cannabis as a way to end the opioid epidemic.

Andrew Yang

Quick Answer:

Supports:

  • Full federal cannabis legalization
  • Social justice and prison reform
  • Potential early release for non-violent drug offenders

How we know:

Yang’s campaign website has an entire section on his stance on marijuana; saying if he takes the White House, he will legalize it, expunge low-level convictions, and he would pardon everyone who’s in jail for a nonviolent drug related offense.

Yang even made that a very specific proposal, saying “I would pardon them all on April 20th, 2021, and I would high five them on their way out of jail.” Yang says he is also all for eliminating private prisons, and using federal funds to buy each individual officer a body camera.

(Also running, but have said little about cannabis so far; Florida Mayor Wayne Messam, and Oprah’s spiritual guru Marianne Williamson.)

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