When Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., dropped out of the presidential race in recent weeks, that left every other viable candidate supporting at least a state’s right to legalize marijuana if its voters chose to do so. And while recreational pot use remains against federal law – something that Congress will need to address lest the next administration be more aggressive about enforcing that law – all of the remaining viable candidates in both parties at least support a state’s right to decide on legalization, Rolling Stone magazine reported recently.
The political backing is there, as well; more Americans than ever (58 percent) now believe that pot should be legalized, and many will consider that an important issue heading into November. However, it’s not clear whether the presidential candidates’ support of legalization will be enough to influence federal policy as well.
As Rolling Stone reported further:
While the actions of Congress and the AG could undermine what the next president is saying today about marijuana policy, the conflict between state and federal law is becoming less tolerable: A whopping 72 percent of Americans believe marijuana law enforcement costs more than it’s worth, and 60 percent say federal prohibition laws shouldn’t apply in states where cannabis is legal.
“The time is long overdue”
“Candidates from both political parties recognize that advocating for marijuana law reform is a political opportunity, not a political liability,” Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML, told the magazine. Rubio, who has taken substantial “contributions” from the prison–industrial complex, supported the enforcement of federal law in states that have voted to legalize pot use.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., a proud socialist running for the Democrat presidential nomination who recently won one of the states – Washington – that has passed a measure legalizing weed, is the most liberal on marijuana policy. On the campaign trail, Sanders has said he wants to end the oppressive War on Drugs and supports allowing states to legalize pot if they want, as well as de-scheduling it (removing it from the federal Controlled Substances Act).
“In my view, the time is long overdue for us to remove the federal prohibition on marijuana,” Sanders said at George Mason University in October. “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.”
Hillary Clinton is behind Sanders on the matter of cannabis policy, and has said that she would continue the Obama Administration’s enforcement guidelines (which has been to officially support states’ rights on the issue while continuing to use taxpayer funds to terrorize marijuana users, producers and distributors). She claims that she supports the states’ right to legalize (but not states’ rights on other issues, like what does and does not constitute marriage); however, she has also proposed to reschedule, rather than de-schedule, cannabis.
“Medical [marijuana] should happen — right?”
“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, that we learn from what they’re doing,” Clinton said on WBZ News Radio in January. “I do think on the federal level we need to move marijuana from the Schedule I of drugs, [and] move it to Schedule II, which will permit it to be the basis for medical research.”
Rescheduling, Rolling Stone noted, would allow for more scientific research but wouldn’t do much to lessen the impact of prohibition.
GOP frontrunner Donald Trump, like Clinton, also believes there should be more cannabis research. And while he has criticized Colorado’s law – “bad things happening with people’s health” – he says cannabis deserves more study.
“I think medical should happen — right? Don’t we agree? I think so. And then I really believe we should leave it up to the states,” Trump said during a Nevada campaign event in the fall.
And Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, says he doesn’t support legalization but does “support the Constitution” and states’ Tenth Amendment right to decide on their own if legalization makes sense for them and their citizens.