Ever since marijuana legalization legislation began circulating in the U.S. House and Senate, politicians on both sides of the aisle have been speaking up to lay down a hard for or against marijuana legalization. A recent poll found that 59% of voters support a proposed Medical Use of Marijuana law that would be implemented nationwide whereas a Rasmussen report from March found that 54% of likely U.S. voters currently favor federal legalization of marijuana and cannabis. Furthermore, a June 2019 poll found that 63% of surveyed individuals supported national legalization of marijuana and cannabis efforts, while only 26% said they would purchase it for their own use.
As the current Democratic Presidential candidates begin digging their heels in for the long haul of the campaign trail, many of them have already expressed their opinions on where they stand on cannabis legalization. Let’s look at a select few candidates that are currently (as of October 2019) still in the hunt to give you a better overview of who might be the top weed-friendly candidate on the Democratic side.
The Bernie bros rejoice at the sound of Bernie Sanders’ thick northeastern accent and viewpoints on many topics of interest; including cannabis. Sanders recently signed on as a co-sponsor of the Marijuana Justice Act along with US Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore), but this is just the tip of the iceberg for Bernie who was the first major presidential candidate to endorse marijuana legalization during his last bid in 2015.
Sanders also attached his name to a number of reform bills in Congress, going back to his time in the House, as well as during his Senate tenure. Bernie also was instrumental in the creation of the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act, which would federally deschedule cannabis if passed. In the end, Sanders has made a point of emphasizing that his efforts to reform marijuana laws is not meant “to encourage anybody to smoke marijuana.”
Elizabeth Warren has picked up steam lately, with many polls showing her to be Sanders’ main competition. Although Warren is not as entrenched in the fight for national cannabis legalization and marijuana decriminalization as Bernie is, she is still very outspoken for legalization for the use as healthier alternatives to pain relief drugs.
After losing a family member to opiates in the past, Warren is a firm believer that Marijuana can be used as a safer alternative to dangerous opiates that are crippling the nation. In a letter to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Warren said opiate abuse is a “national problem and warrants swift and immediate action.” Even though Americans make up only 5% of the global population, they consume 75% of opioid medications. From this angle, it seems as though Warren is aimed at tackling the issue from a purely medical, not recreational standpoint.
Joe Biden was an early Democratic favorite that has fallen slightly out of favor with blue voters recently due to a lot of negative press, but overall is still a frontrunner. Unfortunately, when it comes to cannabis reform, Biden is not as strong of a proponent for national legalization than most of the other candidates.
Biden currently does not have a cannabis policy listed on his website and has also opposed legalization, calling marijuana a “gateway drug” in the past. Even though Biden says that he now favors marijuana decriminalization, he is still a huge proponent of keeping it technically illegal.
Pete Buttigieg seldom talks about his cannabis policy even though he has mentioned that he would want to push towards reform in the future. Buttigieg has said that he would be pushing towards decriminalization to reform the country’s mental health care system and bolster substance abuse treatment. Pete has also mentioned that he would reduce sentences for drug offenses and increase access to the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone, and make it easier to implement syringe exchange programs. Although this is a good step in the right direction, it’s not something that Buttigieg has built his campaign focus around or wants to compete with other candidates on.
Kamala Harris continues to be a force to reckon with on the podium during debates on many topics, including cannabis reform. She has been a strong advocate for decriminalization since she began serving as California’s senator, having proclaimed that “we have a problem of mass incarceration in our country. And let’s be clear, the war on drug was a failed war. It was misdirected.”
Even though Harris supported medical marijuana use, she also voted against a bill that would have regulated and tax recreational marijuana in California in 2010. Kamala believes that drug selling harms communities, thus making it clear that she would not be in favor of national legalization if elected.
Andrew Yang has been lauded as a long-shot since he entered the Democratic Presidential Candidate race, but he is slowly building up a cult following (#YangGang). Yang drew attention earlier this year when he said he’d pardon all non-violent drug offenders on the unofficial marijuana holiday 4/20/2021. Of course, this would only apply to individuals convicted of violating federal marijuana laws.
Yang has advocated for ending marijuana prohibition for good stating that “it’s already legal” in a growing number of states. Andrew feels that criminalizing marijuana does more harm than good and although he has said publicly that he does not love marijuana, he also feels that it’s safer than many other opiates on the market today. The one thing that Yang has done that no other candidate has is to release a plan that would provide military veterans with waivers so that they can access medical cannabis, even in states where it’s not legal. Not too shabby.
So who’s your pick to get the nod to be the Democratic candidate in the next Presidential Election based on this information? Let us know!