For the First Time, All Presidential Candidates Support Cannabis
May 16, 2016 04:59PM
● By Randy Robinson
It’s been a wild ride these past eight years under Obama. It
feels like, just yesterday, he was telling the world that he did inhale, as “That was the point.”
The Obama Administration marked a major milestone in the legal marijuana movement. He’s the second president to openly admit to smoking cannabis on live TV. His 2009 Ogden Memo acted as an officially unofficial sanction for state medical marijuana programs. The memo led to an explosion of new dispensary openings in Colorado, so many that pot shops outnumber Starbucks and McDonald's locations in Denver. Obama also released droves of inmates from federal prison, inmates who were guilty of non-violent drug offenses. He’s even advised federal agencies to review our nation’s cannabis policies, reviews that’ve recently gone into effect.
As Obama exits the White House, we’ve all turned to a new band of candidates, potential presidents in the making. In the age of the Green Rush, supporting cannabis legalization – on any level – has become a campaign boon rather than political suicide. We’ve entered a new era of American history.
Donald Trump – Medical Only
The Donald. No single candidate has generated so much media attention, so much vitriol, and so much rabid support. Trump’s campaign has relied on wild accusations, intensely controversial positions, and proposals that would make any World War II historian cringe. But Trump has also shocked his adversaries by breaking from predictable Republican conservatism, and he openly lampooned the entire election process while doing so.
As far back as 1990, Trump supported the legalization of all drugs. That position shifted dramatically a quarter of a century later, when he voiced his backing only for statewide initiatives legalizing medical marijuana. Currently, he appears to oppose recreational use, but he says he's open to seeing how legalization pans out. In 2016, he claimed a lot of "very negative reports" were coming out of Colorado due to its recreational cannabis sales.
Newsflash: Colorado rocks far more positive reports than negative ones.
Hillary Clinton – Medical Only, Open to Rec
We’ve seen Hillary come a long, long way. Back in the 1970s, when she was an attorney, she was part of the legal team that investigated and eventually forced the resignation of Republican President Richard Nixon. For those of you who don’t know, Nixon was the mastermind behind the Controlled Substances Act, the federal law that officially outlawed marijuana by placing it in Schedule I, a classification for the most dangerous and addictive drugs with “no accepted medical value.”
Like Trump, Clinton openly supports medical cannabis, but she’s taken a more cautious approach when it comes to nationwide legalization. She says she wants to see “more research,” and she’s got her eyes trained on Colorado and Washington. This is a fitting perspective for Mrs. Clinton, considering her husband was the first president to admit to doob-smoking on live TV (although he insists he “didn't inhale” and "did not like it").
Bernie Sanders – Full Legalization, Everywhere
The man with the momentum gets no love from the mainstream media, but he’s gotten heaps of support from the cannabis community. Last year, Sanders introduced a bill to completely remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act. Unfortunately, Sanders’s senate bill has no support, even from senators who claim to support legalization such as Rand Paul (R-KY) and Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon).
Sanders’s senate bill isn’t his first attempt to loosen the reigns on cannabis laws. In 2001, he co-sponsored the States’ Rights to Medical Marijuana Act, which did not pass. Despite his open support for cannabis legalization, he says he himself is not a comrade-in-arms: although he tried marijuana once, he did not enjoy the experience.
Ted Cruz – Full Legalization, States Only
I guess we can pretend Ted Cruz is still a contender. He suspended his campaign in May, but he proved to be the only Republican candidate who put up a fight against Trump. Last month, after Cruz won the Colorado Republican caucus on some debatably shady terms, he threw his support behind our state’s cannabis regulations. In April, he told attendees at the Colorado GOP Convention:
“I think, on the question of marijuana legalization, we should leave it to the states. If it were me personally, voting on it in the state of Texas, I would vote against it. The people of Colorado have made a different decision. I respect that decision.”
So federal criminalization would stay on the books under a Cruz presidency, but states can do what they wish.
Third Party Candidates
Oh, did you forget there’s more than just four people running for president right now?
The Libertartian and Green Parties are perhaps the only two other political parties in America with enough support to make a blip on anyone’s radar. The Libertarians are still hashing out who their candidate will be, but the two leaders – Gary Johnson and John McAfee – both support full legalization. Johnson, in fact, was CEO of Cannabis Sativa, Inc., before resigning in pursuit of a presidential candidacy. Johnson has publicly admitted to being a regular cannabis consumer, although he gets his cannabinoids from edibles only.
Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party not only supports full cannabis legalization, she’s also made a video calling for an end to the War on Drugs.
What Does This All Mean?
What all this means is that our politicians are no longer beholden to a “tough on crime” stance that completely throws any cannabis lover under the bus. For the most part, politicians are no longer worried about appearing soft on crime because our violent crime rates have been falling, on average, for nearly three decades. This falling crime rate, in many ways, opened the door to cannabis policy reform.
We still have a long way to go, however. That politicians feel safe supporting medical use but not all use shows that some of the myths regarding cannabis (e.g. brain damage, apathy, amotivational syndrome, etc.) are alive and well. These fears exist despite mountains of scientific and medical evidence saying this plant is relatively safe to consume.
Regardless, our next president will continue to be friendly to medical patients, at the very least. Hopefully, our next Commander in Chief will take the necessary steps to expand Americans’ access to cannabis. Even a policy of non-interference in state programs is a win for our movement – and our way of life.