Which Presidential Candidates Would Legalize Cannabis?
As we near the end of February, there are still 6 (realistic) candidates vying for the Democratic presidential nomination. A few of these candidates — Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden, for example — have a greater chance at becoming the Democratic nominee than others, but it’s important for us to look at all the candidates in question in order to understand the directions in which our country is moving forward into the future.
In regards to the CBD industry, it’s especially important for us to look at the presidential candidates’ views on cannabis legalization. We’ve already published a blog on which states are likely to legalize cannabis in both recreational and medicinal degrees this coming November, but it’s also important to look at possible federal cannabis legalization. Why? Because...
- Federal cannabis legalization would remove roadblocks for clinical trials on CBD and other cannabinoids, allowing us to learn more about the potential medicinal properties of cannabis-derived products like CBD oils.
- Federal cannabis legalization would allow cannabis companies to benefit from public benefits already available to industries like alcohol and tobacco. It would also allow for cannabis companies to use banking services, expanding the economic potential of these industries.
- Federal cannabis legalization would allow the FDA to regulate cannabis-derived products like CBD oils. The FDA and USDA could then also work together to establish organic certification guidelines for cannabis-derived products.
Some Democratic presidential candidates are very pro-cannabis; others just want to let the states decide. But all have some view on the matter, so we are going to take a look at each presidential candidates’ views on cannabis legalization and give them a CBD Choice ranking of our own.
- CBD Choice Grade: A++
- Current Office: Senator (D-VT)
- Analysis: The future of cannabis personified
Sen. Bernie Sanders is the most pro-cannabis candidate on the Democratic battlefield right now, making the federal legalization of cannabis a key issue during his campaign. He’s the only presidential candidate to say that he’ll legalize cannabis on “day one” in office. Furthermore, he’s also the only candidate with a detailed outline of how he’ll approach upcoming cannabis legislation. Here’s what he’s vowed to do.
Ending the War on Drugs
The Democratic frontrunner has shared his passion in ending the “disastrous” War on Drugs. Here’s how he’ll do it:
- Legalize marijuana at the federal level within the first 100 days of his presidency, through an executive order if necessary.
- Vacate and expunge all past marijuana-related convictions.
- Ensure that revenue from legal cannabis operations is reinvested in the communities hit hardest by the War on Drugs, especially African American communities.
- Eliminate barriers to public benefits for those with past marijuana-related convictions.
- Completely remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) of 1970, which currently classifies marijuana as a Schedule I narcotic. Hemp was only removed from the CSA in 2018 with the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill.
Keeping Big Tobacco Out of the Cannabis Industry
Sanders is also anti-Big Tobacco and has outlined ways in which to keep multi-billion cigarette companies from taking over the cannabis market. Here’s how:
- Ban tobacco and cigarette corporations from participating in the marijuana industry.
- Ban companies that have created cancer-causing products from participating in the cannabis industry.
- Ban companies guilty of deceptive marketing tactics from participating in the cannabis industry.
- Prohibit cannabis products that are labeled to target young people.
Growing the Economic Potential of Cannabis
Sanders additionally recognizes the economic impact that cannabis could have on the U.S. economy. Here, Sanders proposes to:
- Incentivize cannabis companies to structure themselves like nonprofits, keeping profits among communities and out of the hands of big corporations.
- Institute market share and franchise cap programs in order to prevent consolidation and profiteering, distributing wealth more evenly among the cannabis industry.
- Regulate the safety of cannabis products through the federal government, government agencies to create guidelines for certifying cannabis products “organic” and teaching consumers the rights and wrongs of cannabis-derived products.
- CBD Choice Grade: B+
- Former Office: Mayor (South Bend, IN)
- Analysis: The right mindset, not enough detail
Pete Buttigieg, the surprising underdog in the presidential candidate race, has strongly favored cannabis legalization across the board. His plans are less detailed than Sanders’, but he’s got both a ‘Plan A’ and ‘Plan B’ option for legalizing cannabis at the federal level.
Buttigieg’s ‘Plan A’
- Convince both Democratic and Republic lawmakers to legalize marijuana.
We are unsure how he will do this, but the former South Bend, Indiana mayor seems to believe that he has the sway in Congress to get some pro-cannabis legislation implemented, regardless of who may control the House this coming January.
Buttigieg’s ‘Plan B’
If the presidential candidate cannot get cannabis legislation through both sides of the aisle, he has proposed a second, more radical option for legalizing cannabis federally:
- Fly Air Force One around the country, visiting anti-cannabis lawmakers’ hometowns.
- Convince the voters in each of these districts to pressure said lawmakers into passing cannabis legislation.
It is unclear if this would work, and we foresee some backlash over using Air Force One in this way. But hey, if it works, it works. It’d certainly be the first time in history a sitting U.S. President went on a pro-cannabis Air Force One brigade around the country.
- CBD Choice Grade: D-
- Former Office: Vice President
- Analysis: Just piggybacking the rest of the field
Joe Biden, the former Vice President under Barack Obama, has said that he is opposed to cannabis legalization at the federal level. At least until further research into the plant’s potential medicinal effects is examined. However, Biden has said that he will:
- Reclassify marijuana under the CSA in order to open up more clinical research opportunities into cannabinoids and their potential benefits.
- Decriminalize cannabis at the federal level while research is undertaken.
- Expunge past cannabis-related crimes.
- Immediately release individuals who are serving prison terms for cannabis-related crimes.
Unfortunately, Biden has a troubled history with creating drug laws in the U.S. and has even been credited with contributing to the rampant racial disparity in drug arrests nationwide. Plus, what he has proposed as cannabis legislation is simply a watered-down version of what just about every other candidate has said.
- CBD Choice Grade: A-
- Current Office: Senator (D-MA)
- Analysis: Good ideas, not enough detail
Does she “have a plan for that”? We certainly don’t doubt that Sen. Elizabeth Warren has a plan for creating comprehensive cannabis legislation at the federal level. She has come out in favor of legalizing marijuana and preventing Big Tobacco from working in the cannabis industry — much like Sanders — but we have yet to see a comprehensive guide as to how she’ll achieve such success as president. Warren wants to:
- Reduce federal funding to states that refuse to legalize marijuana.
- Prevent Big Tobacco from dominating the burgeoning cannabis industry.
- Fill her White House administration with supporters of cannabis legalization.
- Immediately begin overhauling the United States’ strict anti-drug laws.
- Bring banking to the cannabis industry.
- Permit veterans to use marijuana without fear of federal punishment.
- Give those with prior cannabis convictions an advantage if they wish to work in the cannabis industry.
- CBD Choice Grade: D
- Current Office: Senator (D-MN)
- Analysis: Way too wishy-washy
Sen. Amy Klobuchar says that she is pro-cannabis legalization, but it’s unclear if she is referring to both cannabis and hemp when saying such things. In fact, it’s unclear what she believes regarding cannabis at all.
In 1998, when Klobuchar first entered government as County Attorney of Hennepin County, Minnesota, she stated her outright opposition to marijuana legalization and earned a “tough on crime” reputation. Not to say that people cannot change, but currently, as a Senator, Klobuchar did not join her fellow Democrats in cosigning the Marijuana Justice Act, which aims to legalize marijuana at the federal level.
In her published plan for her first 100 days as president, Klobuchar does mention that she will begin the process to reschedule cannabis under the CSA, but rescheduled is not legalized.
- CBD Choice Grade: F
- Former Office: Mayor (New York, NY)
- Analysis: A real piece of work
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has a long history of speaking out against comprehensive marijuana law reforms, both at the federal level and in his home state of New York. During his term as mayor, cannabis-related arrests skyrocketed even though the state had decriminalized cannabis possession in small amounts back in the 1970s, believe it or not.
Not to mention, these policies disproportionately targeted minorities, especially African Americans. And in January of 2019, prior to announcing his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, Bloomberg said that legalizing marijuana was the “stupidest thing anybody has ever done.”
Compare those remarks to 2020, where the president hopeful went on record to say that “putting people in jail for marijuana” is “really dumb.” At least he’s self-aware of his own insufficiencies, adding that he “can’t change history."
And since launching his presidential campaign, the former mayor has really doubled down on his newly pro-cannabis mindset, proposing to:
- Decriminalize cannabis possession in small amounts at the federal level.
- Allow states to set their own cannabis laws without federal interference.
However, these proposals carry no significant weight, especially considering that Bloomberg recently hired to his campaign a top staffer of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), a group known for extreme views against the legalization of cannabis that describe themselves as a bipartisan partnership, aimed at creating policies that decrease the use of cannabis nationwide.
Maybe it’s just us, but that doesn’t sound very pro-cannabis, Michael.