As the 2020 Presidential primaries and election get closer, it’s not surprising that many candidates are including cannabis reform as important aspects of their platforms. Support for cannabis legalization hit 67% among American adults in 2019 according to new research by Pew Research. In fact, Pew Research reports that 91% of Americans believe cannabis should be legal for either medical or recreational purposes, and only 8% believe cannabis should be fully illegal.
Leading Republicans’ Positions on Cannabis
There are currently three viable candidates for Republican Presidential nominee: current President Donald Trump, Joe Walsh, and Bill Weld. Based on public comments, Walsh appears to be the only candidate to fully support national legalization of adult-use cannabis.
Following are each Republican Presidential candidate’s current position on cannabis reform (candidates are listed in alphabetical order):
President Donald Trump
President Trump’s position on cannabis is actually hard to decipher. He has made some pro-cannabis statements and decisions as well as others that make his position on legalization hard to know with certainty. It appears that he supports medical cannabis and states’ rights to regulate medical cannabis, but that could change. There is no evidence that he fully supports adult-use legalization either.
Joe Walsh has stated publicly on Twitter that he supports full legalization for adults age 21 and over.
Bill Weld is on the board of directors for Acreage Holdings, so it’s not a big leap to assume he’s pro-legalization. He backed an adult-use ballot initiative in Massachusetts (his home state) and was on a Libertarian presidential ticket in 2016 with Gary Johnson when he stated one of their goals would be to end cannabis prohibition at the federal level. He also endorsed the STATES Act, but there is still some public concern as to whether or not he would support full legalization as the Republican Presidential candidate.
Leading Democrats’ Position on Cannabis
Among the 10 Democratic candidates who qualified for the November 2019 debate, eight have publicly stated that they fully support federal legalization of adult-use cannabis. Only Joe Biden and Tom Steyer have yet to take a 100% pro-legalization stance.
Following are each Democratic Presidential candidate’s current position on cannabis reform (candidates are listed in alphabetical order):
At a town hall meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada on November 16, 2019, former Vice President Joe Biden gave some insight into his position on cannabis saying, “There’s not nearly been enough evidence that has been acquired as to whether or not [cannabis] is a gateway drug. It’s a debate, and I want a lot more before I legalize it nationally. I want to make sure we know a lot more about the science behind it.” He went on to say, “I think it would be a mistake to legalize,” but he does support decriminalization. He also said, “States should be able to make a judgement to legalize marijuana.”
Cory Booker is a vocal advocate of full cannabis legalization at the federal level, and he has introduced multiple bills in Congress to end federal cannabis prohibition, protect state cannabis programs, and open banking to cannabis businesses.
Pete Buttigieg has released a reform plan that would legalize and decriminalize cannabis. He has also publicly stated that medical cannabis should be covered by medical insurance.
Tulsi Gabbard has a history of voting for pro-cannabis amendments in Congress and has introduced legislation to end prohibition and to decriminalize it. She also voted for legislation that would expand medical cannabis access to veterans.
Kamala Harris supports cannabis legalization and wants it to be regulated at the federal level rather than by individual states. In recent years, she has co-sponsored and introduced legislation to Congress that would end federal prohibition and decriminalize cannabis. She has also supported the SAFE Banking Act.
Amy Klobuchar has stated that she supports full legalization of adult-use cannabis at the federal level, and she has supported cannabis reform legislation introduced in the Senate.
In August 2019, Bernie Sanders released a plan to legalize cannabis within the first 100 days of his presidency by executive action and expunge all past marijuana-related convictions. Sanders has long-been an advocate of cannabis legalization and has sponsored and supported numerous pieces of legislation to reform cannabis laws. In fact, he introduced the first Senate bill to end cannabis prohibition at the federal level in 2015.
Tom Steyer has stated publicly that he supports cannabis legalization and opening up banking options to cannabis businesses.
Elizabeth Warren supports full legalization of cannabis at the federal level and has introduced and supported multiple bills to the Senate, including as lead sponsor of the STATES Act. In September 2019, she told Prospect, “I support delisting marijuana as a Schedule I drug to limit federal intervention when states have already legalized marijuana … I also support the full legalization of marijuana and restorative justice for those unjustly jailed for marijuana crimes.”
Andrew Yang promotes legalization at the federal level in order to remove “ambiguity” between state and federal laws. He also supports decriminalization.
Key Takeaways about 2020 Presidential Candidates and Cannabis
As Democrats vie for their party’s nomination for the 2020 Presidential election, most have made it clear through public statements and actions that they support legalization and decriminalization, and for some, legalization and decriminalization will be top priorities if they’re elected. Republican candidates’ haven’t been as forthcoming with their cannabis positions yet – aside from Joe Walsh. However, there is still a lot of time in this race.
Susan Gunelius, Lead Analyst for Cannabiz Media and author of Marijuana Licensing Reference Guide: 2017 Edition, is also President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company offering, copywriting, content marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, and strategic branding services. She spent the first half of her 25-year career directing marketing programs for AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more as well as small businesses around the world. Susan has written 11 marketing-related books, including the highly popular Content Marketing for Dummies, 30-Minute Social Media Marketing, Kick-ass Copywriting in 10 Easy Steps, The Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing, and she is a popular marketing and branding keynote speaker. She is also a Certified Career Coach and Founder and Editor in Chief of Women on Business, an award-winning blog for business women. Susan holds a B.S. in marketing and an M.B.A in management and strategy.