The Democratic candidacy is up for grabs, but if Joe Bidden gets in the mix, other Democrats will have to compete against Biden’s extensive experience in the Oval Office. Democratic candidates have until Tuesday, November 3, 2020 to lead the nation into a collective agreement on who will become our new president.
One of the most pressing issues of today, cannabis legalization, is a stance that can differentiate democratic candidates from one another. More people are growing aware of the need for cannabis legalization and its effect on our society. If cannabis legalization is an issue you’re invested in, check out these leading Democratic candidates and their stances on medicinal and recreational cannabis use.
Joe Bidden is a clear frontrunner for the Democratic nomination (if he decides to run), but his views on cannabis legalization are outdated by many candidates’ standards. He still considers cannabis a gateway drug, but believes “focusing significant resources on interdicting or convicting people for smoking marijuana is a waste of our resources.”
He does not support full cannabis legalization and had a considerable hand in implementing harsh drug penalties during the Reagan era. Although he admits his support of the policies were wrong, pot activists aren’t likely to be voting for him based on his stance on cannabis.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is one of the strongest proponents for cannabis policy reform. NORML even gave him an A+ grade based on his legislative record. When announcing his presidential bid, he stated that “we need to invest in jobs and education for our kids, not more jails and incarceration.”
“We need to end the destructive war on drugs, private prisons, and cash bail,” says Sanders. In 2015, he filed the first bill in the Senate to end federal cannabis prohibition. He’s supported bills to deschedule cannabis and remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances list. His support of cannabis extends back more than 20 years.
Beto O’Rourke wasn’t deterred from running for office after losing to Ted Cruz for a spot in the U.S. Senate. Throughout his political career, O’Rourke has been a vocal proponent of cannabis reform earning a B+ grade from NORML in 2016 and an endorsement in his 2018 bid for the Senate.
Speaking very candidly to a crowd in Iowa, O’Rourke said, “we should end the federal prohibition on marijuana.” He acknowledged that people of color are more affected by cannabis prohibition than any other individuals. He’s admitted to smoking before but wasn’t a habitual user.
During his time in Congress, he introduced a bill that repealed the Department of Transportation’s ability to withhold federal aid for highways if a state failed to revoke or suspend drivers’ licenses for people with drug offenses. He’s also co-sponsored many bills on federal cannabis and hemp laws.
Democratic Senator Cory Booker from New Jersey maintains strong support for marijuana reform. In 2017, he wrote the Marijuana Reform Act, which would remove past drug convictions, punished states that harshly enforced its cannabis drug charges, and federally legalize cannabis. Although it wasn’t passed, it showed his conviction to change the status quo.
Almost all the other Democratic presidential candidates have supported Booker’s legislation, except for Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar. Recently, Booker introduced a bill, the Marijuana Justice Act, to legalize cannabis nationwide and provide financial incentives for states to loosen their cannabis laws.
California Senator Kamala Harris has smoked cannabis in the past but wasn’t fully ready to show her support for cannabis legalization until 2015. As a California attorney general, she wasn’t too keen on marijuana reform. In her book, however, she advocated for expunging criminal records for non-violent marijuana offenses and federal legalization.
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is another strong proponent for cannabis legalization. In 2016 she voted to legalize recreational cannabis in Massachusetts. She has had a key role in the STATES Act, which protects states with marijuana laws from federal interference. She’s also showed great support for Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act.
The days of a majority of presidential candidates supporting cannabis prohibition are long gone. The War on Drugs has proven to have unintended consequences that affected people of color and those with limited financial resources more than any other group. As more states have legalized recreational cannabis use, presidential candidates have begun voicing their support for cannabis legalization even louder than before.