This Presidential Candidate Plans To Fully Legalize Marijuana

If you said a decade ago that marijuana would be one of the key issues that would decide our next president, I’d probably have chuckled. However, the reality is that marijuana is very much entrenched as a hot-button issue in the 2016 elections.

Believe it: marijuana is a hot-button issue
With the rare exception, marijuana’s momentum has been positive. Since 1996, 23 states have decided to allow physicians to prescribe marijuana for medicinal purposes, while four states — Oregon, Washington, Colorado, and Alaska — along with Washington, D.C., have approved recreational marijuana sales for adults ages 21 and up.

Growing acceptance of marijuana has led to hope for terminally ill persons and patients with chronic diseases. There has been strong clinical evidence, for instance, that cannabinoids from the cannabis plant may be responsible for a marked reduction in seizures associated with certain types of childhood-onset epilepsy.  GW Pharmaceuticals‘ Epidiolex, which features tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), reduced seizure frequency by more than 50% in patients with Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome. Needless to say, countless studies are under way examining the possible medical benefits of marijuana.

How Evolving Public Attitudes On Marijuana Could Affect The 2016 Presidential Race

Pot is very much on the minds of voters, with millions poised to decide whether to legalize it. That raises a tantalizing question for presidential candidates: Is there political opportunity in the wind?

Some are beginning to believe there is.

The latest sign was the full-throated call last week by Sen. Bernie Sanders to end federal prohibition. With that one move, the candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination plunged into uncharted territory — and, arguably, so did the presidential race.

Never before has a contender with so much to lose so unequivocally suggested that smoking a joint should be viewed the same as drinking a beer, at least in the eyes of the law.

The move was about more than Sanders’ signature straight talk. It could give the Vermont senator a much-needed boost in some primary states, especially in the West.

Bernie Sanders’s Not-So-Radical Marijuana Idea

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Two candidates nodded to liberalizing standards about marijuana in the United States on Wednesday—one expected, one a little more surprising. In the latter case, Senator Ted Cruz offered, during the GOP debate, to buy CNBC’s Carl Quintanilla “some famous Colorado brownies.”

Meanwhile, across the country in Virginia, Senator Bernie Sanders called for the federal government to lift its prohibition on marijuana. Though Sanders is sometimes caricatured as an unreconstructed dope-smoking ’60s hippie (and even though his first name is perfect for pot puns), he says he only ever smoked twice, didn’t like it, and didn’t get high. But Sanders has long called for decriminalization, and he took a step further in remarks at George Mason University Wednesday.

“The time is long overdue for us to take marijuana off the federal government’s list of outlawed drugs,” he said. “In my view, states should have the right to regulate marijuana the same way that state and local laws now govern sales of alcohol and tobacco.”

Sanders Proposes Nixing Marijuana From Federal List Of Dangerous Drugs

VIRGINIA: Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders announced his support Wednesday for removing marijuana from a list of the most dangerous drugs outlawed by the federal government — a move that would free states to legalize it without impediments from Washington.

The self-described “democratic socialist” senator from Vermont shared his proposal during a nearly two-hour town hall meeting with college students that he said was broadcast on the Internet to about 300 campuses across the country from George Mason University in Fairfax County, Va.

“Too many Americans have seen their lives destroyed because they have criminal records as a result of marijuana use,” Sanders told a live audience of more than 1,700 students, which erupted with applause. “That’s wrong. That has got to change.”

No other presidential candidate has called for marijuana to be completely removed from the schedule of controlled substances regulated by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Carly Fiorina Suggested Marijuana Is More Dangerous Than Alcohol. She’s Wrong.

During her factually troubled debate performance last week, Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina accidentally made at least one somewhat accurate remark: “We are misleading young people when we tell them that marijuana is just like having beer. It’s not.”

Fiorina is right — just not in the way she meant. She was arguing that pot is more dangerous than alcohol. But the evidence shows the opposite is true — marijuana is, in fact, safer than alcohol.

This distinction should be a big deal for Fiorina and other presidential candidates: Getting this right isn’t just a matter of being informed; it’s also key to understanding some of the major issues surrounding marijuana, alcohol, and drug policy today.

All Of These Presidential Candidates Have Admitted Smoking Marijuana

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: One of the lighter moments of Wednesday’s epic slog of a Republican presidential primary debate came when former Florida governor Jeb Bush joked that his mother, the former first lady, would not be happy that he admitted having smoked marijuana “40 years ago.”

The line got a fair amount of laughs from the audience, but it also came amid a broader debate among the candidates over federal drug laws. Defending marijuana legalization, Sen. Rand Paul asserted that “kids who had privilege like [Bush]” are often given a pass when it comes to admitting past drug use, whereas people from poorer backgrounds — often minorities — are more likely to go to prison for using marijuana.

Paul is easily the most marijuana-friendly candidate in the Republican field, though he has famously declined to offer a straight answer as to whether or not he’s ever used the drug himself. The rest of the candidates are divided when it comes to their stances on marijuana legalization, with Bush saying that it is an issue that should be decided on a state level while others, like Carly Fiorina and New Jersey governor Chris Christie, argued that federal laws banning marijuana should be enforced in every state.

Colorado Marijuana Law Point Of Contention During GOP Debate; Bush Smoked 40 Years Ago

CALIFORNIA: Colorado’s recreational marijuana law took center stage for a time during the Republican presidential debate Wednesday night.

It certainly was a political point of contention.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie defended his position that if he’s elected president, he would enforce the federal law and make it illegal to smoke marijuana recreationally in Colorado.

Jeb Bush voted against legalizing marijuana in Florida, but he argued Colorado could make its own decisions. Then Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul went on the offensive.

“Gov. Christie would go into the state of Colorado and if you’re breaking any federal law, even though the state law allows it, he would put you in jail,” Paul said.

Elizabeth Warren Urges Feds To Support Research On Medical Marijuana’s Benefits

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: The federal government has a “responsibility” to facilitate sensible research into marijuana’s medical benefits, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and seven other senators urged in a letter issued last week to multiple federal drug and health officials.

“While the federal government has emphasized research on the potential harms associated with the use of marijuana, there is still very limited research on the potential health benefits of marijuana — despite the fact that millions of Americans are now eligible by state law to use the drug for medical purposes,” the letter reads.

The senators praised the White House’s recent lift of what was a mandatory bureaucratic review process, long criticized by researchers and lawmakers alike, that had stifled scientific research into the plant. But, they also encouraged the federal drug and health agencies to do more.


A Republican President Could Kill The Cannabis Industry

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: The election of a conservative Republican as President could roll back the gains made in the legalization of marijuana. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie took a bold stand recently and said if he were elected, he would work to reverse what has happened under President Obama. While its doubtful Christie would be elected President, it isn’t that improbable that a conservation republican could be elected over Hillary Clinton and get tough on pot. While most people in the cannabis industry dismiss such talk, it’s a very real possibility.

Dan Riffle, Director of Federal Policies at the Marijuana Policy Project said, “I’m not worried about the next president rolling back marijuana reform; those days are over. First and foremost, marijuana polls better than any candidate from either party—you’re not going to get elected if part of your campaign involves rolling back marijuana laws more popular than you. The fact that Colorado is a swing state helps here.

Second, the DOJ’s policy of deference toward the states wasn’t just written because it’s the politically popular option, but because, legally, there’s very little the federal government can do. Every lawyer and law student who made it through their first year of law school knows the feds can’t force the states to criminalize marijuana, and the Justice Department just doesn’t have the resources to enforce federal law on its own without the states’ cooperation.” The Federal Government though can make life very difficult for those in the cannabis industry if they get that mandate from the top.

Marijuana Policy In 2015: Eight Big Things To Watch

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  One certainty about 2015 is that it marks the start of the 2016 presidential campaign. As Democrats wait to hear about Hillary Clinton’s decision, a slew of Republicans are lining up (quietly or otherwise) to succeed Barack Obama. The next president can have a substantial impact on marijuana policy in the United States. Right now, the experiments in Colorado and Washington continue to proceed, without federal government intervention because of an informal agreement between the Justice Department and the states. Such a policy could be reversed on January 20, 2017, with a new president with a different position on marijuana.

As dozens of states have approved medical marijuana, and now four states and DC have approved recreational marijuana, cannabis policy will absolutely be part of the 2016 conversation—and that conversation will begin this year. What is so fascinating about marijuana policy is that, unlike most issues, it does not fall neatly along party lines. Some Democrats support it; some Democrats oppose it. Some Republicans support it; some Republicans oppose it. Thus far, prospective candidates have been tightlipped on the issue, with a few exceptions. Texas Governor Rick Perry has openly discussed decriminalization. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has talked about a need for drug policy reform. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has hinted that she is comfortable letting the states experiment as they have been.

Those considering a run for the White House have been able to remain mum or offer hints at their policy views on marijuana. However, as candidates declare, journalists begin looking for news hooks, voters start meeting those running, and debate moderators start peppering would-be presidents with questions, marijuana is sure to become a serious issue in a way that it has not in prior presidential campaigns. The next election will not simply be a discussion of whether a candidate has inhaled in the past, but about how a president will treat those who choose to inhale in the future.