The 2020 elections are already making history with every current declared Democratic candidate voicing their support for legal cannabis at a federal level. What once was a divisive topic amongst candidates has become a conventional stance that is driving campaigns well beyond just support for legal medical marijuana.
Here’s where all the declared 2020 Democratic presidential candidates stand on marijuana:
New Jersey senator Corey Booker announced his presidential campaign in early February. He reintroduced the Marijuana Justice Act this last week, meant to end federal prohibition, clear those with existing records and reinvest in communities that have been affected the greatest by the War on Drugs. The Marijuana Justice Act is co-sponsored by other Democratic candidates like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
“The War on Drugs has not been a war on drugs, it’s been a war on people, and disproportionately people of color and low-income individuals,” states Booker on his senator website.
Castro is the former US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Obama and he announced his plans to run for president in January of this year. Though he has made few statements on his stance for legal cannabis, he did demonstrate opposition to the White House’s plan for cracking down on recreational weed in 2017 when he took to Twitter to call it a “mistake.”
Earlier this year, he also retweeted a post on Twitter ending with the statement:
“Legalizing marijuana must include a push for restorative justice.”
John Delaney was the United States Representative for Maryland’s 6th congressional district between 2013 and 2019. He announced his 2020 presidential campaign plans back in 2017.
During his time in Congress, Delaney co-sponsored seven different bills related to cannabis. This included a bill to remove CBD from its status as a controlled substance. Though he never introduced any marijuana-related bills himself, he was a clear supporter of reform, voting consistently in favor of legislation aimed at reducing the intensity of federal marijuana laws.
He has not been outspoken regarding marijuana reform since announcing his campaign, though past statements have addressed his support for removing cannabis from a Schedule 1 status.
Tulsi Gabbard currently serves as the Democratic US Representative for Hawaii’s 2nd congressional district. She announced her campaign plans at the beginning of this year.
In her announcement speech, she called out the broken US political system where marijuana users are put in prison while big pharmaceutical companies walk free despite their role in opioid-related deaths.
She has co-sponsored a number of cannabis-related bills and served as a lead sponsor for the Marijuana Data Collection Act to push for more research into the effects of marijuana legalization. In a press release from last year, Gabbard stated,
“We must allow legal access to medical marijuana to help prevent opioid addiction and opioid-related deaths.”
Current California senator Kamala Harris announced her presidential campaign at the end of January. She opposed legalization in the past, later changing her stance to support for medical marijuana. Her opinion on recreational cannabis shifted in 2018 when she co-sponsored the Marijuana Justice Act.
In a tweet earlier this year, Harris said,
“California needs federal support in dealing with transnational criminal organizations. What we don’t need is Jeff Sessions going after grandma’s medicinal marijuana.”
The most recent candidate to join the presidential race is John Hickenlooper, former Governor of Colorado.
While he previously opposed the groundbreaking decriminalization of cannabis in Denver, his attitude towards cannabis appears to be more go-with-the-flow as he recognizes changing public opinion. He signed a bill in 2014 to spend $9 million in medical marijuana research. He also was one of the dozen governors who signed a letter pushing Congress to pass the STATES Act.
Washington state governor Jay Inslee officially announced his campaign at the beginning of this month. In his recent speech, he noted that Washington has already legalized marijuana and declared it time for the rest of the nation to follow.
Although he initially opposed legalization, he has taken a strong supportive stance over the years. At the beginning of this year, he announced his plans to expunge the prior cannabis records of thousands of people.
Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota senator, announced her campaign last month. She has never brought any cannabis legislation to the table, although she has signed other bills brought forth by her colleagues.
While she hasn’t spoken much on the issue of cannabis reform, her website states, “I have opposed efforts to roll back the Obama Administration policy that the federal government would not interfere with state laws legalizing marijuana,” and says she cosponsored legislation pushing for better regulation of and more research into marijuana.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders announced he is running for president in February, and his stance on marijuana remains an important part of his campaign this time around. He has been an outspoken supporter of marijuana reform for years, with cosponsorships for medical marijuana legislation dating back decades ago.
In 2015, Sanders said,
“States should have the right to regulate marijuana the same way that state and local laws now govern the sale of alcohol and tobacco. And among other things, that means that recognized businesses in states that have legalized marijuana should be fully able to use the banking system without fear of federal prosecution.”
Elizabeth Warren officially declared she’s running for president in February. She was a lead sponsor in the 2018 STATES Act pushing for amendments to the Controlled Substances Act to exclude marijuana from interference by federal law. She has also cosponsored a number of cannabis reform bills.
She took to Twitter on 4/20 last year to say that the “federal government needs to get out of the business of outlawing marijuana.”
The Future of Cannabis in the United States
With all of the declared Democratic presidential candidates in support of legalizing marijuana, reform will be an important issue for the upcoming elections.
“While it is uncertain whether a comprehensive bill that ends federal prohibition will get a vote this year, it seems likely that at least one of them will get a hearing this session,” Morgan Fox of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) told us. “It is also possible that we will see a more narrowly tailored bill such as the SAFE Banking Act approved. The conversation is definitely moving in the right direction and momentum is building, so the future looks bright.”