Super Tuesday and Super Saturday have come to pass, Michigan has cast their ballots, even the Democrats Abroad have made their voices heard; but neither party has settled on a candidate. Donald Trump currently has a 90 delegate lead over his closest competitor Ted Cruz, while Hillary Clinton holds a 205 pledged delegate lead over Bernie Sanders. Both of these leads are clear, but not definitive. Especially with big states like Florida, Illinois, North Carolina and Ohio all voting tomorrow. This means that come April 19th, when New York holds our primaries my vote might matter. That means my roommates’ votes matter as well, and last night one of my roommates admitted to me he is fully undecided and incredibly intimidated about having to pick someone to support in such a diverse field.
There were lots of things I could have talked to him about, but I decided to go with the issue I knew would get his attention… marijuana legalization!
Right now, at the federal level, marijuana is a Schedule I Drug making it (in layman’s terms) super illegal and nearly impossible to research. Recently a bunch of states have bucked the DEA and legalized marijuana on their own. But legally speaking, they don’t actually have the power to make that call. The state-level marijuana policy reforms we’ve seen in the last three years are entirely subject to the whims of the White House and Department of Justice, meaning who gets elected could directly impact both medial and recreational marijuana laws.
So where do candidates stand on this? Luckily the Marijuana Policy Project has done tons of research into public statements making it easy for us to investigate. Listed alphabetically:
Secretary Clinton is very much in favor of medical marijuana and more research into medical benefits of marijuana. She wants to reclassify pot from Schedule I to Schedule II to make it easier for further research.
With recreational use, she is less clear. She has stated she doesn’t believe anyone should be imprisoned for marijuana use. She also has given quotes that seem enthusiastic about state legalization laws saying, “I think that states are the laboratories of democracy, and four states have already taken action to legalize, and it will be important that other states and the federal government take account of how that’s being done, what we learn from what they’re doing. I think that states moving forward is appropriate.” and also “I really believe it’s important that states like Colorado lead the way, so that we can learn what works and what doesn’t work. And I would certainly not want the federal government to interfere with the legal decision made by the people of Colorado.” So while the former Secretary of State has not come out in favor of recreational legalization, she hasn’t come out against it either.
Senator Cruz views medical and recreational marijuana through the lens of states’ rights. He personally doesn’t support changes but won’t get in the way of states who have medical or legal marijuana. Saying, “I don’t support drug legalization but I do support the Constitution. I think individual states can choose to adopt it. So if Texas had it on the ballot, I’d vote against it, but I respect the authority of states to follow different policies.” In another quote he echoed Clinton’s statements about the ‘laboratories of democracy’ stating, “I actually think this [marijuana reform] is a great embodiment of what Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis called the laboratories of democracy. If the citizens of Colorado decide they want to go down that road, that’s their prerogative. I don’t agree with it but that’s their right.”
Governor Kasich is generally against marijuana reform, both medical and recreational. Back in 2012 he actually said, “On medical marijuana, doctors that I know tell me we don’t need that, there are other ways to [treat pain].” He also has stated that states probably should have the right to establish their own policies and he wouldn’t challenge state laws regulating marijuana. But the Ohio Governor doesn’t seem to have a clear marijuana policy, once claiming, “If I happened to be president, I would lead a significant campaign down at the grassroots level to stomp these drugs out of our country.” So a President Kasich might be a setback to both medical and recreational reforms.
Senator Rubio seems to be the biggest anti-marijuana hardliner still in the presidential race. He supports FDA research into medical marijuana, but with conditions, saying, “If there are medicinal uses of marijuana that don’t have the elements that are mind-altering or create the high but do alleviate whatever condition it may be that they are trying to alleviate, that is something I would be open to.” And while a Rubio campaign spokesperson has said “States can make decisions about what laws they wish to apply within their own border,” Rubio himself has made multiple statements that contradict his spokesperson, statements like, “Marijuana is illegal under federal law. That should be enforced.” and “I believe that the federal government needs to enforce federal law...I’m not in favor of legalizing marijuana. I’m not, and never have been.” So it’s not clear whether Rubio would crack down on Colorado and Washington or whether he’d leave them be.
Senator Sanders is the only candidate for president who has stated a personal support for the legalization of recreational marijuana use. Not surprisingly he also is in favor of medical marijuana and ending marijuana arrests, once boasting, “I have supported the use of medical marijuana. And when I was mayor of Burlington, in a city with a large population, I can tell you very few people were arrested for smoking marijuana. Our police had more important things to do.” Sanders views marijuana through the sames lens he views many problems, a lens of income inequality and how that inequality manifests itself in our criminal justice system. When asked how he’d vote on a statewide ballot initiative to legalize and regulate marijuana the Vermont Senator said, “I would vote yes because I am seeing in this country too many lives being destroyed for non-violent offenses. We have a criminal justice system that lets CEOs on Wall Street walk away, and yet we are imprisoning or giving jail sentences to young people who are smoking marijuana.” So much like most of Sanders’ positions, his stance on marijuana is unequivocal, and throws a bit of shade on big finance.
Mr. Trump’s stances on marijuana are fascinating. In 1990 he took a very bold stance said, “We’re losing badly the War on Drugs. You have to legalize drugs to win that war. You have to take the profit away from these drug czars.” However, Trump has evolved on a bunch of issues in the last 25 years, so unsurprisingly the real estate magnate has evolved on marijuana reform as well. At the moment he supports medical, actually coming out “100%” in favor of medical marijuana. As far as legal recreational marijuana, he thinks the federal government should stay out of it, stating, “In terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state-by-state.”
So to sum it all up, Clinton, Cruz, Sanders and Trump have no intentions for their Department of Justice to meddle in state laws, while Kasich and Rubio have not fully shut the door on possible federal actions curtailing legal recreational marijuana sales in Colorado or Oregon. Trump, Sanders and Clinton all support medical marijuana, Rubio only supports medical if the patients don’t get stoned, Cruz doesn’t support it but would leave it up to the state to make the decision and Kasich seems to not support it at all. And the only candidate who has let it be known they want to legalize recreational marijuana is Bernie Sanders.