Senator Stances: A 2020 Election Overview on Legalization

Each candidate’s position on recreational marijuana can be a key factor for voters to clue in on,

The US Capitol Building with the dome lit up at night Source: Shutterstock

When it comes to marijuana legalization and the range of opinions on how it should be handled on the federal level, the future is unclear.

Support for the legalization of recreational marijuana use has been steadily increasing for decades. By 2019, polls clocked support for adult-use cannabis at 67%. That support varies by group, with the younger a person is and the further left they lean politically being key indicators that the individual is likely to support recreational use.

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Majorities of Millennials, Generation X, and Baby Boomers all favor legislation that would make marijuana legal. About 68% of Democrats think both recreational and medicinal use of the product should be off the cops’ radar, compared to 49% of Republicans.

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Those statistics are all top-of-mind for anyone playing politics. In the Senate races, in particular, each candidate’s position on recreational marijuana can be a key factor for voters to clue in on. Not every state is electing new senators in the 2020 election, but here’s how those in this year’s race feel about weed:

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Alabama

  • Incumbent Doug Jones (D) said in 2019 that he would like marijuana to be removed from the federal list of controlled substances.
  • Tommy Tuberville (R) says he’ll need further proof medical marijuana is a positive thing but is against recreational marijuana being legalized. He also thinks these decisions should be left up to the states.

 

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Alaska

  • Dan Sullivan (R) is the incumbent, and his main stance on cannabis is that states should decide individually whether they want to legalize it, and to what degree. He opposed a ballot to legalize marijuana in Alaska.
  • The other seat has Democrats, Libertarians, and Independents all vying for it.

 

Arizona

  • Martha McSally (R) voted against legalizing or decriminalizing cannabis of any form.
  • Mark Kelly (D)’s supporters favor the legalization of recreational cannabis by a 3:1 margin, but Kelly himself doesn’t seem to be particularly outspoken on the issue.

 

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Arkansas

  • Tom Cotton (R) says states should decide whether to legalize medical marijuana but doesn’t want to adjust federal law.
  • Ricky Dale Harrington Junior (L) says he wants to decriminalize marijuana and end policies established during the War on Drugs

 

Colorado

  • Both Cory Gardner (R) and John Hickenlooper (D) agree that both recreational and marijuana legal.

 

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Delaware

  • Chris Coons (D) voted in 2018 to block a marijuana banking amendment but hasn’t spoken much about legalization for the product.
  • Lauren Witzke (R) has compared the legalization of marijuana to legalizing methamphetamine.
  • Mark Turley (I) once said, “It’s a natural plant and humans have a natural right to it.”
  • Nadine Frost (L) supports decriminalizing marijuana.

 

Georgia

  • David Perdue (R) is the incumbent, and has shown receptiveness to the legalization of medical marijuana, but thinks those decisions should be made at the state level.
  • Jon Ossoff (D) has been loud about his support for the legalization of recreational cannabis.

 

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Idaho

  • Jim Risch (R) is the incumbent. He feels states should be allowed to legalize medical cannabis, but falls short of approval for recreational.
  • Paulette E. Jordan (D) believes marijuana should be decriminalized.
  • Natalie Fleming (I) supports the legalization of recreational marijuana.

 

Illinois

  • Dick Durbin (D) wants more research done on marijuana before he’ll support its use.
  • Mark Curran (R) was an avid supporter of a bill that would give people 25 years in prison if they’re caught with particularly strong weed.

 

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Iowa

  • Joni Ernst (R) opposes both medical and recreational marijuana, though she voted to legalize medical cannabis oil.
  • Theresa Greenfield (D) hasn’t been vocal on marijuana, so far as we can tell.

 

Kansas

  • Barbara Bollier (D) supports decriminalizing marijuana.  
  • Roger Marshall (R) feels the Justice Department should stay out of cannabis.

 

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Kentucky

  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) has said loudly and clearly that he will not consider descheduling cannabis. He has, however, signed the Industrial Hemp Farming Act, which ensures hemp is not classified in the same bracket as marijuana, despite the fact that it comes from the cannabis Sativa plant.
  • Amy McGrath (D) wants to legalize medical marijuana nationwide and make sure it’s no longer classified as a Schedule 1 drug. She believes it can be used to help with chronic pain, PTSD, and opioid addiction.

 

Louisiana

  • Bill Cassidy (R), the incumbent supports medical cannabis, but not recreational, and feels the product should still be prohibited at the federal level.
  • He’s facing ten other candidates, all with varying opinions. Most Louisiana voters oppose marijuana legalization.

 

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Maine

 

Massachusetts

  • The incumbent, Ed Markey (D) has changed his view over time. He used to oppose legalization, but now supports legalization at the federal level.
  • Kevin O’Connor (R) hasn’t made his views clear, so far as The Stash can tell.

 

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Michigan

  • Gary Peters (D), the incumbent, wants medical marijuana legalized, and thinks states should decide their stances without federal intervention.
  • John James (R) opposes legalization for recreational use, but hasn’t talked much about medical marijuana.

 

Minnesota

  • Incumbent Tina Smith (D) wants marijuana legalized at the federal level.
  • Jason Lewis (R) wants the federal government to stay out of prosecuting but hasn’t come out in firm support of the product itself.
  • Minnesota also has Kevin O’Connor (not the same as the one running in Massachusetts) vying for the election, as part of the Legal Marijuana Now Party.

 

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Mississippi

  • Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) is firmly against marijuana.
  • Mike Espy (D) wants to know more about whether cannabis is safe, but hasn’t been outright against it.

 

Montana

  • Incumbent Steve Daines (R) has vocalized support for veterans’ use of medical marijuana when prescribed.
  • Steve Bullock (D) supports medical cannabis but has been unclear about his views on recreational use.

 

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Nebraska

  • Ben Sasse (R) is the incumbent. He says the federal government should stay out of marijuana regulations.
  • Chris Janicek (D) doesn’t seem to have been particularly vocal about his opinions on weed.

 

 New Hampshire

  • Jeanne Shaheen (D), the incumbent, supports medical marijuana, but not adult-use.
  • Bryant Messner (R) hasn’t made his views clear, so far as The Stash can tell.

 

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New Jersey

  • Cory Booker (D) is the incumbent and has been loud about his support for decriminalization, and an interest in working to right the wrongs of the War on Drugs.
  • Rik Mehta (R) was a Democrat for much of his life and supports the legalization of medical marijuana.  

 

New Mexico

  • Ben Ray Lujan (D) thinks marijuana should be decriminalized, and low-level offenses should be expunged. He also has said people should not be deported for minor marijuana offenses.
  • Mark Ronchetti (R) is an outspoken and fervent supporter of marijuana legalization.

 

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North Carolina

  • Thom Tillis (R), the incumbent, is interested in more research for benefits of medical marijuana but has not been supportive of legalization.
  • Cal Cunningham (D) says states should develop their own regulations and taxations of marijuana, and establish substance abuse treatment centers.

 

Oklahoma

  • Jim Inhofe (R) is the incumbent and has not seemed to be supportive of legalization.
  • Abby Broyles (D) wants to change federal law to decriminalize marijuana.

 

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Oregon

  • Jo Rae Perkins (R)
  • Jeff Merkley (D) is described as a “longtime friend and champion for the marijuana legalization movement.”

 

Rhode Island

  • Jack Reed (D), the incumbent, is not supportive of federal legalization, and wants states that have already legalized weed to be analyzed, so lessons learned in those states can be incorporated into federal law.
  • Allen Waters (R) doesn’t seem to be very vocal about weed, though almost six in ten of his voters support legalization.

 

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South Carolina

  • Lindsey Graham (R) is the incumbent. He opposes marijuana legalization.
  • Jaime Harrison (D) is a vocal supporter of cannabis legalization and says criminalization of marijuana has disproportionately affected Black communities.

 

South Dakota

  • Mike Rounds (R) is the incumbent. He is completely against cannabis legalization, but his family is involved in the hemp business.
  • Dan Ahlers (D) has not spoken much about his views on weed, and even declined to answer a question about legalization in an interview.

 

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Tennessee

 

Texas

  • John Cornyn (R), the incumbent, says policymakers should “…understand the public safety implications of increased marijuana use before we dive in to the admittedly complex and difficult job of changing federal policy.”
  • Mary Jennings Hegar (D) has said before that she has smoked marijuana, but didn’t want to elaborate on that, and has simply noted that other states have legalized the product.

 

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Virginia

  • Mark Warner (D) is the incumbent. He’s said before that he supports medical marijuana, and thinks cannabis companies should be able to bank freely.
  • Daniel Gade (R) has never publically commented on his stance on marijuana (at least from what we can find).

 

West Virginia

  • The incumbent is Shelley Moore Capito (R), when asked about legalization, replied, “I have fewer issues with medical marijuana, although I don’t think we’ve researched that enough to really know, exactly, what kind of benefits but also what kind of impacts.”
  • Paula Jean Swearengin (D) hasn’t made her views clear, so far as The Stash can tell.

 

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Wyoming

 

The Marijuana Justice Act & The MORE Act

Within the Democratic party, there is some progress thanks to the Marijuana Justice Act. Sponsored by Senator Cory Booker and backed by several senators, including Vice Presidential-hopeful Kamala Harris., the Act has several goals: it decriminalizes marijuana and removes it from the federal Controlled Substances Act; it takes away any criminal penalties for people who import, export, manufacture, distribute, or possess marijuana with intent to sell; and it aims to right the wrongs inflicted on certain groups (especially minorities) by the War on Drugs.

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It establishes something called the Community Reinvestment Fund, which provides funding for communities most affected by that war. Convictions for marijuana possession would be expunged. The bill also penalizes states that have disproportionate arrest or incarceration rates for marijuana offenses.

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On the website for his Senate campaign, Cory Booker states,

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“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. The Marijuana Justice Act seeks to reverse decades of this unfair, unjust, and failed policy by removing marijuana from the list of controlled substances and making it legal at the federal level.”

Those supporters include:

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  •       Elizabeth Warren (D) Massachusetts
  •       Kamala Harris (D) California
  •       Ron Wyden (D) Oregon
  •       Bernie Sanders (I) Vermont
  •       Bennet (D) Colorado
  •       Kirsten Gillibrand (D) New York
  •       Jeff Merkley (D) Oregon

You might notice Joe Biden is not on the list of those backing the Marijuana Justice Act, though his running mate is. Biden has made clear he does not favor legalization at the federal level, but rather decriminalization. Senator Kamala Harris’s views have changed drastically over the years, going from tough on crime to having marijuana reform as one of the key components in her platform in the Senate race.

Meanwhile in the House, Congressional Representatives will vote on the MORE Act the week of September 21st. New York Rep. Jerry Nadler’s bill aims to decriminalize cannabis and remove it from the United States’ list of controlled substances. It also hopes to expunge low-level cannabis offenses and reinvest in “certain persons adversely impacted by the War on Drugs.”

Senator Stances: A 2020 Election Overview on Legalization was last modified: by