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Where the 2020 Presidential Candidates Stand on Legalizing Cannabis

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Cannabis has currently survived by state legislation and a tacit understanding that cannabis prohibition has caused more harm than good. Before we have even made headway into the 2020 Presidential election, we stand with a cannabis industry that is already in the multi-billions. Additional states are set to draft legislation over the next year, with New Jersey and New York State most likely to be decided early 2020. 

Not every candidate has openly stated their platform, but a look at their policy history will give us a good place to start. 

Donald Trump 

The president has been a bit inconsistent in his stance, stating he would leave the issue up to the states but did admit support for medical programs. Early in his tenure it was believed President Trump would crackdown on states after rescinding the Cole Memo, created under Obama. He has not taken a stance on federal prohibition, keeping cannabis out of the hands of veterans who can use it. To put it broadly, Trump is perpetuating the Drug War. His lack of a change is a tacit agreement with the status quo. Yet, is anyone really surprised by his words don’t match his words.

Joe Biden

Biden has been the topic of meme culture as of late with Cory Booker searing him for his stance on cannabis. Biden’s stance is not vague and aligns with the antiquated status quo. Biden has sponsored some of the countries most punitive drug legislation, including the 1994 crime bill. He has long maintained that drugs should be illegal across the board, that regulating marijuana is a mistake and the criminal justice system is well-suited to handle offenders. 

Elizabeth Warren

Skeptical in her early career, Warren has expressed clear support since launching her 2020 presidential campaign. She has even called on other lawmakers to draft a cannabis banking legislation. Cannabis’ federal status has relegated cannabis to a predominately cash-only industry. 

Pete Buttigieg

Buttigieg has not linked his name to any signed legislation, however he did approve an ordinance banning the selling to synthetic cannabis. His position has evolved a bit going as far as to release a racial justice plan that supports the legalizing cannabis as well as removing criminal penalties for possessing other drugs. From his standpoint, the state’s role should be to treat drugs as a public and mental health concern and not as a criminal justice issue. 

Bernie Sanders

The man has an excellent track record of not just supporting cannabis reform, but writing bills in favor of legalizing cannabis. His presidential campaign has repeatedly exclaimed a promise to ‘end the destructive war on drugs’.

Cory Booker

Booker is determined to pass cannabis legislation that provides opportunities for those in minority and low income communities. For Booker, cannabis reform and social justice are two peas in a pod. One does not change without the other. In the spirit of things, Booker has signed his name to a bill that would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and re-invest federal funding toward communities affected the most by the drug war. 

Amy Klobuchar

Although she has expressed support, Klobuchar has yet to sign nor sponsored any progressive cannabis reform legislation. She has supported expanding federal support for cannabis research and reassessing the scheduling of cannabis-derived compounds like cannabidiol. 

Tulsi Gabbard

Decriminalizing cannabis is a central policy for Gabbard. She has repeatedly made the issue a primary concern for campaign and has openly support legalizing adult-use marijuana as a way to reform the criminal justice system.

Kamala Harris

Harris dropped out of the Presidential race however she declared support for cannabis reform on New York-based radio show "The Breakfast Club." However, her recent change in time for the election has constituents questioning her authenticity. Harris has been a strong proponent of the Marijuana Justice Act, but has also prosecuted cannabis convictions. 

The majority of candidates has expressed some form of support of cannabis reform. While several of these candidates have solid track others, it will be left up to voters down the stretch to figure out whether some candidates are on board with legalizing cannabis or merely serving talking points. 

Contributed by Richard Sanchez

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