Where Do The Top Democratic Candidates Stand On Marijuana Legalization?
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All the Democratic presidential candidates want to change marijuana laws at the national level. There is a substantial difference in how they want to approach it.
Both Joe Biden and Mike Bloomberg favor decriminalization, but not legalization. Even though that is a more conservative position than their rivals, it’s still a change from where marijuana stands now. President Donald Trump has said that he believes marijuana lowers IQ. On the other hand, Trump seems to have, at least for now, adopted a laissez-faire approach to cannabis legalization, allowing states to move forward without interference.
Democratic candidates Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg take a more liberal position.
The following looks at the positions of the top five Democratic candidates, based on a recent national poll by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal.
Joe Biden favors decriminalization, more study
Joe Biden, the former senator and Vice President, is not in favor of legalizing marijuana nationwide. In the past, Biden helped to create the Office National Drug Control Policy, which gave us the “Drug Czar.” Michael Collins, director of national affairs at Drug Policy Action, told Rolling Stone that Biden “embraced the war on drugs. He seized every opportunity he had. He really leaned into escalating it.”
In an interview published by the New York Times in January 2020, Biden said he favors decriminalizing marijuana so it can be studied for research purposes. He said he wants to “get the medical community to come up with a final definitive answer as to whether or not it does cause it. If it does cause other problems, then make it clear to people.”
Asked why he favors further study over legalization, Biden responded, “Because I think science matters.”
Bernie Sanders would legalize weed nationwide by executive order
Sanders has an entire page on his website dedicated to legalizing marijuana. On it, Sanders simply states: “We will legalize marijuana and vacate and expunge past marijuana convictions.” Additionally, he calls for using money from taxes and fees placed on marijuana to get reinvested in communities that have been hit hardest by the War on Drugs.
Sanders does not plan on waiting for congressional approval. He wants to legalize adult-use marijuana nationwide through executive order. He ties in legalization to other societal problems, saying: “When we talk about criminal justice reform and ending institutional racism in America, we are talking about ending the disastrous war on drugs, which has disproportionately targeted people of color and ruined the lives of millions of Americans.”
Elizabeth Warren believes War on Drugs ripped families apart
In 2019, Warren announced her support for the Marijuana Justice Act on Twitter. The act would legalize marijuana nationwide, expunge arrest records, and reinvest tax money made into communities impacted by the War on Drugs.
At a CNN Town Hall, Warren said that racial disparities in how the War on Drugs was conducted is one of the main reasons for her support of federal cannabis legalization. On her website, Warren said that the War on Drugs “criminalized addiction and ripped families apart.”
Michael Bloomberg is changing his position on marijuana
Bloomberg once called marijuana legalization “one of the stupider things that's happening across our country," in the Wall Street Journal. He’s backpedaled a bit during the campaign, now saying he favors decriminalization. But Bloomberg has not backed legalization for either recreational or medical marijuana, according to the Journal.
A spokesman for Bloomberg has said he opposes the federal government interfering with states that have legalized cannabis.
Pete Buttigieg has seen how marijuana helps military veterans
“Mayor Pete” toured a dispensary in 2019 and announced that the War on Drugs has failed and that he supports legalization at the national level. He also cited the treatment of people of color and the poor under the War on Drugs as a reason for legalization, and added that most banks will still not extend financial services to marijuana businesses because of federal law. A military veteran himself, Buttigieg also noted he has spoken with many veterans who depend on cannabis for service-related issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder.