2020 Presidential Candidates and Marijuana

2020 Candidates on Marijuana: The Ultimate Guide

With support for marijuana legalization stronger than ever before, the issue of cannabis reform is slated to become a prominent issue in the 2020 presidential election.

Donald Trump, seeking a second term as President of the United States, is expected to earn the Republican party’s nomination. Trump has yet to take any notable actions related to marijuana, neither positive or negative, since taking office.

On the Democrat side, an abundance of declared primary candidates will battle in the primaries for their party’s nomination. Among Democratic voters, marijuana legalization has become a mainstream stance and politicians vying for their support have responded. So far, nearly every single declared Democratic presidential candidate have come out in support of either completely legalizing marijuana at the federal level, or descheduling it and leaving it up to the states.

From now until the 2020 presidential election, this article will serve as home base for 2020 presidential candidates and their stance on federal marijuana policy. It will be regularly updated to reflect changes as presidential hopefuls enter and drop out of the race, as well as to document any shifts or major updates in cannabis views.

Republican Candidates

  • Donald Trump Stance on Marijuana
    Donald Trump Stance on Marijuana

    President Donald Trump

    See Candidate Stance More Information
    • Supports Medical Marijuana
    • Supports Recreational Marijuana
    • Introduced/Co-sponsored Cannabis Legislation
    • Approved/Voted in Favor of Cannabis Legislation

Democratic Candidates

  • Elizabeth Warren Stance on Marijuana
    Elizabeth Warren Stance on Marijuana

    Sen. Elizabeth Warren

    See Candidate Stance More Information
    • Supports Medical Marijuana
    • Supports Recreational Marijuana
    • Introduced/Co-sponsored Cannabis Legislation
    • Approved/Voted in Favor of Cannabis Legislation
  • Kamala Harris Stance on Marijuana
    Kamala Harris Stance on Marijuana
    • Supports Medical Marijuana
    • Supports Recreational Marijuana
    • Introduced/Co-sponsored Cannabis Legislation
    • Approved/Voted in Favor of Cannabis Legislation
  • Kirsten Gillibrand Stance on Marijuana
    Kirsten Gillibrand Stance on Marijuana

    Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

    See Candidate Stance More Information
    • Supports Medical Marijuana
    • Supports Recreational Marijuana
    • Introduced/Co-sponsored Cannabis Legislation
    • Approved/Voted in Favor of Cannabis Legislation
  • Cory Booker Stance on Marijuana
    Cory Booker Stance on Marijuana
    • Supports Medical Marijuana
    • Supports Recreational Marijuana
    • Introduced/Co-sponsored Cannabis Legislation
    • Approved/Voted in Favor of Cannabis Legislation
  • Amy Klobuchar Stance on Marijuana
    Amy Klobuchar Stance on Marijuana
    • Supports Medical Marijuana
    • Supports Recreational Marijuana
    • Introduced/Co-sponsored Cannabis Legislation
    • Approved/Voted in Favor of Cannabis Legislation
  • Bernie Sanders Stance on Marijuana
    Bernie Sanders Stance on Marijuana
    • Supports Medical Marijuana
    • Supports Recreational Marijuana
    • Introduced/Co-sponsored Cannabis Legislation
    • Approved/Voted in Favor of Cannabis Legislation
  • Tulsi Gabbard Stance on Marijuana
    Tulsi Gabbard Stance on Marijuana
    • Supports Medical Marijuana
    • Supports Recreational Marijuana
    • Introduced/Co-sponsored Cannabis Legislation
    • Approved/Voted in Favor of Cannabis Legislation
  • Beto O'Rourke Stance on Marijuana
    Beto O'Rourke Stance on Marijuana
    • Supports Medical Marijuana
    • Supports Recreational Marijuana
    • Introduced/Co-sponsored Cannabis Legislation
    • Approved/Voted in Favor of Cannabis Legislation
  • John Hickenlooper Stance on Marijuana
    John Hickenlooper Stance on Marijuana
    • Supports Medical Marijuana
    • Supports Recreational Marijuana
    • Introduced/Co-sponsored Cannabis Legislation
    • Approved/Voted in Favor of Cannabis Legislation
  • John Delaney Stance on Marijuana
    John Delaney Stance on Marijuana
    • Supports Medical Marijuana
    • Supports Recreational Marijuana
    • Introduced/Co-sponsored Cannabis Legislation
    • Approved/Voted in Favor of Cannabis Legislation
  • Jay Inslee Stance on Marijuana
    Jay Inslee Stance on Marijuana
    • Supports Medical Marijuana
    • Supports Recreational Marijuana
    • Introduced/Co-sponsored Cannabis Legislation
    • Approved/Voted in Favor of Cannabis Legislation
  • Where Tim Ryan Stands on Cannabis
    Where Tim Ryan Stands on Cannabis
    • Supports Medical Marijuana
    • Supports Recreational Marijuana
    • Introduced/Co-sponsored Cannabis Legislation
    • Approved/Voted in Favor of Cannabis Legislation
  • Eric Swalwell Stance on Marijuana
    Eric Swalwell Stance on Marijuana
    • Supports Medical Marijuana
    • Supports Recreational Marijuana
    • Introduced/Co-sponsored Cannabis Legislation
    • Approved/Voted in Favor of Cannabis Legislation
  • Julián Castro Stance on Marijuana
    Julián Castro Stance on Marijuana
    • Supports Medical Marijuana
    • Supports Recreational Marijuana
    • Introduced/Co-sponsored Cannabis Legislation
    • Approved/Voted in Favor of Cannabis Legislation
  • Pete Buttigieg Stance on Marijuana
    Pete Buttigieg Stance on Marijuana
    • Supports Medical Marijuana
    • Supports Recreational Marijuana
    • Introduced/Co-sponsored Cannabis Legislation
    • Approved/Voted in Favor of Cannabis Legislation
  • Andrew Yang Stance on Marijuana
    Andrew Yang Stance on Marijuana
    • Supports Medical Marijuana
    • Supports Recreational Marijuana
    • Introduced/Co-sponsored Cannabis Legislation
    • Approved/Voted in Favor of Cannabis Legislation
  • Wayne Messam Marijuana
    Wayne Messam Marijuana
    • Supports Medical Marijuana
    • Supports Recreational Marijuana
    • Introduced/Co-sponsored Cannabis Legislation
    • Approved/Voted in Favor of Cannabis Legislation
  • Marianne Williamson Stance on Marijuana
    Marianne Williamson Stance on Marijuana
    • Supports Medical Marijuana
    • Supports Recreational Marijuana
    • Introduced/Co-sponsored Cannabis Legislation
    • Approved/Voted in Favor of Cannabis Legislation

2020 Republican Party Nominee:

  • President Donald Trump

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    President Donald Trump
    • Supports Medical Marijuana
    • Supports Recreational Marijuana
    • Introduced/Co-sponsored Cannabis Legislation
    • Approved/Voted in Favor of Cannabis Legislation

    The president has sent mixed signals about his position on marijuana. During his campaign for president in 2015, Donald Trump acknowledged the therapeutic benefits of medical marijuana but opposed the legalization of adult use cannabis. “I think it’s bad,” he said after being asked for his thoughts on Colorado legalizing recreational marijuana, “and I feel strongly about that.”

    Later in his campaign, however, he modified his position by stating that while he didn’t support recreational marijuana, he believed states should be allowed to legalize marijuana without federal interference. He continued to express support for the legalization of medical marijuana.

    So far in his term, Trump has remained unclear in his intentions regarding cannabis reform. In December 2018, he did sign the 2018 Farm Bill, which included provisions to legalize hemp. He also said he would “probably” support the STATES Act, a bipartisan bill introduced by Sens. Cory Gardner (R) of Colorado and Elizabeth Warren (D) of Massachusetts, that would allow states to write their own marijuana policies.

    Despite Trump’s support of hemp and suggested federalist approach to marijuana legalization, some in the industry remain skeptical considering he picked Jeff Sessions, a staunch marijuana opponent, as his first attorney general. Additionally, interviews and documents obtained by BuzzFeed News last year revealed the Trump Administration had been secretly coordinating a government-wide effort to portray marijuana legalization in a negative light.

    Most recently, in signing a spending bill on February 15, 2019, Trump singled out an included provision that prevents the Justice Department from using funds to interfere with medical marijuana, stating that he “will treat this provision consistent with the President’s constitutional responsibility to faithfully execute the laws of the United States.” In short, Trump was making it clear that he reserves the right to ignore the cannabis provision and interfere with state-legal marijuana. While that language could elicit concern, it’s important to note that he made a similar comment in May 2017 when signing that fiscal year’s appropriations bill into law, and yet no raids against state-legal medical marijuana patients or providers followed.

    Multiple Republican lawmakers contend that Trump remains supportive of states making their own decisions about marijuana. Dana Rohrabacher, the former Representative from California, claims members within the Trump Administration reassured him they would take up federal cannabis reform following the midterm elections, but no actions have been made yet.

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2020 Democratic Party Nominees:

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren

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    Sen. Elizabeth Warren
    • Supports Medical Marijuana
    • Supports Recreational Marijuana
    • Introduced/Co-sponsored Cannabis Legislation
    • Approved/Voted in Favor of Cannabis Legislation

    While Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) says she has never smoked marijuana, she is arguably the most active and vocal of cannabis reform supporters in Congress. She is the lead sponsor on the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act, a bill that would allow states to make their own cannabis policies without fear of federal interference. Warren has also co-sponsored at least six other major pieces of marijuana-related legislation, including bills to expand medical cannabis access to veterans and to protect banks that service the cannabis industry.

    Warren is open about her evolving attitudes on cannabis. Initially, she was unenthusiastic about loosening cannabis policies and even declined to endorse the legalization ballot initiative in her hometown state of Massachusetts in 2016 (although she says she did vote in favor of it). Over recent years, she’s embraced legalization more fully and today regularly champions cannabis reform proposals. She hasn’t voted for cannabis legislation, but only because there have been no bills that have been brought to the floor of the Senate during her tenure.

    In addition to introducing and co-sponsoring several marijuana bills, Warren has pressed federal officials to protect the cannabis industry. After former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded protections for marijuana in 2018, she spearheaded a letter to Donald Trump, encouraging him to direct the Justice Department to continue its hands-off approach. The year prior, Warren joined nine other senators in a letter to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, urging the bureau to not go after banks that service cannabis-related businesses in states where marijuana is legal.

    Warren has said she’d prefer to have marijuana legalized federally, but would be open to working with Republicans to support a state-by-state legalization approach “if that’s the best we can do.”

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  • Sen. Kamala Harris

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    Sen. Kamala Harris
    • Supports Medical Marijuana
    • Supports Recreational Marijuana
    • Introduced/Co-sponsored Cannabis Legislation
    • Approved/Voted in Favor of Cannabis Legislation

    Today, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) not only supports legalizing and regulating marijuana at the federal level, but believes that nonviolent marijuana-related offenses should be expunged from the records of those who have been arrested and incarcerated.

    While Harris is now a strong supporter of full legalization, her views on marijuana have changed over the years. She voiced opposition to legalization in 2010 while serving as the District Attorney of San Francisco, then expressed support for legalizing medical marijuana five years later at the California Democrats Convention. As of recently, she expanded her support to recreational use as well, and has signed on as a co-sponsor of Cory Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act, a bill that would legalize marijuana federally and incentivize states to address the harms prohibition has had on marginalized communities.

    Harris’ evolution on marijuana could be related to her recent job change. As California’s attorney general, Harris may have been hesitant to share her opinions if they conflicted with current law. Harris first publicly embraced complete legalization in 2018, in her second year as a Senator of California.

    Since coming around to recreational use, Harris has been full steam ahead in her reform efforts. Besides the Marijuana Justice Act, she’s also backed the SAFE Banking Act, a bill to protect banks that provide accounts, loans, and other financial services to legally-operating cannabis businesses. In 2018, Harris also joined Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah in a letter to Jeff Sessions, then U.S. Attorney General, urging him to stop blocking cannabis research. Since taking office as U.S. Senator, Harris has not had the opportunity to vote for any cannabis reform legislation.

    Harris has admitted to smoking marijuana in the past. In her book released in January 2019, Harris acknowledged marijuana’s potential for creating impaired driving issues and discussed the need for a reliable breathalyzer equivalent.

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  • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

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    Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
    • Supports Medical Marijuana
    • Supports Recreational Marijuana
    • Introduced/Co-sponsored Cannabis Legislation
    • Approved/Voted in Favor of Cannabis Legislation

    Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is among the most reliable advocates for cannabis reform in Congress. Over recent years, she has co-sponsored several pieces of marijuana legislation and regularly advocates for cannabis policies in statements and on social media.

    Gillibrand’s stance on cannabis has evolved considerably over time. Like many of the other 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, she was once a non-participant in the effort to reform cannabis policies. During her two years in the U.S. House, from 2007 to 2009, she did not co-sponsor any cannabis-related bills and even voted against a floor amendment aimed at protecting medical marijuana states.

    Today, however, Gillibrand is one of the most vocal and active supporters of marijuana. She is a co-sponsor of Sen. Cory Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act, a bill that would allow states to legalize marijuana and punish those that enforce marijuana laws disproportionately, as well as his CARERS Act, a piece of legislation that would shield medical marijuana states from federal interference. She’s also co-sponsored bills to legalize hemp and encourage research into the potential benefits of cannabis for conditions that commonly impact veterans.

    Gillibrand has also used her position in Congress to come to the defense of marijuana reform efforts. She publicly slammed opioid companies in 2018 for actively opposing the legalization of marijuana, and joined colleagues in urging the Justice Department to stop blocking efforts to grow marijuana for use in research. In 2016, Gillibrand and 26 other lawmakers sent President Barack Obama a letter, urging him to end the current barriers that hinder the study of cannabis and its potential benefits.

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  • Sen. Cory Booker

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    Sen. Cory Booker
    • Supports Medical Marijuana
    • Supports Recreational Marijuana
    • Introduced/Co-sponsored Cannabis Legislation
    • Approved/Voted in Favor of Cannabis Legislation

    Since announcing his candidacy, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) has put marijuana legalization at the center of his platform. Launching his campaign in an interview on the Tom Joyner Morning Show, Booker right away pushed his support for cannabis reform, citing the need for “equal justice under the law.”

    At the heart of Booker’s support for marijuana is the racially disproportionate manner in which marijuana laws are enforced. As a result, he’s introduced some of the most daring marijuana legislation seen in Congress. Most recently, he joined Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) in introducing the Next Step Act, a sweeping criminal justice bill that would end the federal prohibition on marijuana, expunge records, and reduce harsh mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug offenses.

    In 2017, Booker introduced the Marijuana Justice Act, a wide-reaching bill that would not only end federal prohibition on marijuana, but also encourage states to legalize the substance and penalize those that display marijuana-related incarceration rates that are racially disparate. He reintroduced a new version of the bill in 2018.

    Booker in 2015 also introduced the CARERS Act, which would protect medical marijuana patients and businesses from federal intervention and encourage more research by requiring the Drug Enforcement Administration to license additional marijuana cultivators. Years later, he reintroduced the bill with bipartisan support.

    A consistent critic of the War on Drugs, Booker has also co-sponsored bills to protect states with legal marijuana and banks that work with legally-operating cannabis businesses.

    Booker, the former mayor of Newark, New Jersey mayor, also came to the defense of legal marijuana states in 2017 after Sean Spicer, White House Press Secretary at the time, suggested the federal government may impose a crackdown. He and 10 colleague senators responded with a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, urging the Justice Department to back off. When Sessions rescinded the Cole memo, an Obama-era guidance document directing prosecutors to not prioritize marijuana enforcement, Booker condemned the move in a speech on the Senate floor.

    Additionally, he put his name on a separate 2017 letter to Sessions, imploring the attorney general to not reverse Obama-era policies directing prosecutors to not pursue long mandatory-minimum prison sentences against low-level drug offenders. Booker also joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers in a letter to Congressional leadership, requesting they support a provision that would expand medical cannabis access to veterans.

    Booker has publicly voiced frustration over the War on Drugs for more than 11 years. He still speaks frequently of his advocacy for marijuana reform, regularly citing the consequences of prohibition and the need for legalization with restorative justice. As Senator for New Jersey, he has not had the opportunity to vote for any marijuana-related legislation.

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  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar

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    Sen. Amy Klobuchar
    • Supports Medical Marijuana
    • Supports Recreational Marijuana
    • Introduced/Co-sponsored Cannabis Legislation
    • Approved/Voted in Favor of Cannabis Legislation

    While Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) hasn’t been particularly outspoken about her stance on marijuana, she has regularly supported cannabis reform legislation introduced by her colleagues. Only recently did she come out in full support of legalizing recreational marijuana at the federal level, and the announcement came in the form of a fairly muted statement.

    Like many of the other Democratic nominees, Klobuchar’s stance on marijuana has evolved over time. In a 1998 debate for Hennepin County attorney, she voiced opposition to the legalization of marijuana. She once held a D rating from the marijuana advocacy organization NORML, indicating a “hard on drugs stance,” but has since upped her grade to a B during her time in the Senate.

    Klobuchar may not spearhead cannabis reform efforts, but she has backed at least four pieces of marijuana-related legislation introduced by her colleagues in the Senate. She is a co-sponsor of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s STATES Act, a bill that permits states to freely legalize marijuana, as well as the MEDS Act, which encourages more research into cannabis.

    In 2018, when it was revealed that the Justice Department may be blocking marijuana research efforts by slowing the approval of applications to grow research-grade cannabis, Klobuchar joined seven other senators in a letter demanding answers on the delay.

    Unlike most of her Democratic Senate colleagues running for president, however, Klobuchar has not yet signed onto Sen. Cory Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act. The bill would deschedule cannabis, allowing states to legalize marijuana, while withholding funding from states that discriminate in their cannabis enforcement.

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  • Sen. Bernie Sanders

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    Sen. Bernie Sanders
    • Supports Medical Marijuana
    • Supports Recreational Marijuana
    • Introduced/Co-sponsored Cannabis Legislation
    • Approved/Voted in Favor of Cannabis Legislation

    Throughout his long political career, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has fought relentlessly for cannabis policy reform. As expected, Sanders reiterated his support for full marijuana legalization in his presidential candidate announcement video, arguing that the federal government “needs to end the destructive War on Drugs.”

    Sanders, who has said he’s smoked marijuana decades ago but that the plant “didn’t do a whole lot” for him, has backed a number of cannabis reform bills in Congress, both during his time in the House and throughout his Senate tenure. Most recently, he signed on as co-sponsor of Sen. Cory Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act, which would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act to permit states to legalize cannabis as they see fit, while punishing those states with discriminatory enforcement practices. Prior to that, he supported the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act, a bill introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) that would decriminalize marijuana under federal law.

    Fighting for cannabis legalization before nearly every other lawmaker, Sanders introduced the first-ever Senate bill to end federal cannabis prohibition, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2015. No other senators backed his bill at the time. Twenty years prior, Sanders backed a House bill to legalize and regulate marijuana under federal law. He also made the legalization of cannabis a central issue in his campaign for president in 2016, and was the first major presidential candidate to ever endorse marijuana legalization. During his 16 years in the U.S. House, Sanders has voted in favor of amendments that protected legal medical marijuana states from federal intervention several times.

    Sanders is an outspoken supporter of marijuana reform and regularly discusses the issue on social media, in speeches, and during debates. He’s regularly argued that marijuana should not be classified as a Schedule I substance like heroin and more dangerous substances, that prohibition disproportionately impacts black Americans, and that non-violent cannabis convictions should not upend lives. When the Justice Department under Donald Trump started to dismantle guidelines on federal marijuana enforcement priorities, Sanders publicly criticized the moves.

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  • Rep. Tulsi Gabbard

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    Rep. Tulsi Gabbard
    • Supports Medical Marijuana
    • Supports Recreational Marijuana
    • Introduced/Co-sponsored Cannabis Legislation
    • Approved/Voted in Favor of Cannabis Legislation

    Since assuming her position in Congress in 2013, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) has regularly pushed for major cannabis reform and been vocal in her cannabis advocacy. She has consistently voted in favor of marijuana amendments on the House floor, including two measures aimed at protecting states with legalized medical marijuana, and a separate, broader proposal to shield all marijuana states.

    In 2018, Gabbard introduced the Ending Marijuana Prohibition Act, a landmark bill that would decriminalize marijuana and remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act entirely so that states could regulate the substance as they choose. The year before, when the bill was initially introduced and Gabbard backed it as a co-sponsor, she delivered a passionate speech on the floor of the U.S. House, urging her colleagues to support it. Gabbard also introduced the Marijuana Data Collection Act, a bill that would require the federal government to study the effects of marijuana legalization.

    Having served in a medical unit in the Hawaii Army National Guard, Gabbard has also actively supported several pieces of legislation aimed at expanding medical cannabis access to veterans. Also, in her six years in Congress, she’s voted in favor of three separate amendments that would allow veterans to obtain recommendations for medical marijuana through their VA physician.

    In addition to her legislative efforts to support cannabis reform, Gabbard also regularly releases pro-cannabis statements and social media posts. After the governor of Hawaii vetoed state legislation that would allow medical marijuana to be used for the treatment of opioid addiction and other substance use disorders, Gabbard publicly criticized the decision.

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  • Beto O’Rourke

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    Beto O’Rourke
    • Supports Medical Marijuana
    • Supports Recreational Marijuana
    • Introduced/Co-sponsored Cannabis Legislation
    • Approved/Voted in Favor of Cannabis Legislation

    Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke has made it clear that marijuana reform is a central issue in his effort to seize the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Only hours after announcing his candidacy, O’Rourke spoke to a crowd in Iowa about the importance of reforming the nation’s cannabis laws. He officially endorsed legalizing marijuana nationwide and expunging all previous marijuana convictions in a March 2018 email to supporters.

    O’Rourke has been a supporter of marijuana legalization throughout his entire political career. In 2009, as a member of the El Paso City Council, O’Rourke called for “an honest, open national debate on ending the prohibition of narcotics.”

    During his five-year tenure in Congress, he co-sponsored several cannabis reform bills, including legislation to end marijuana prohibition and to protect states with legal marijuana from federal interference. He also backed a bill that automatically sealed criminal records of people convicted for non-violent federal marijuana offenses. A bill that allowed students to still receive federal financial aid even after a cannabis possession conviction also garnered his signature. O’Rourke also co-sponsored bills aimed at expanding research into medical marijuana and to allow doctors with the Department of Veterans Affairs to recommend medical cannabis to veterans.

    While in the U.S. House, O’Rourke voted ‘yes’ multiple times for floor amendments that protected states with medical marijuana laws from federal enforcement, and for a wider amendment that also applied to states with recreational marijuana or CBD-only laws. He also voted in favor of amendments to legalize hemp and one aimed at allowing banks to service marijuana businesses.

    O’Rourke was also the lead sponsor of the Better Drive Act, which would prohibit the federal government from withholding funds for highway infrastructure if a state fails to revoke or suspend drivers’ licenses of people convicted of drug offenses.

    In his pursuit of cannabis reform, O’Rourke signed a bipartisan letter in 2014 urging President Barack Obama to deschedule marijuana. In a separate letter two years later, he and colleagues called on Obama to push for an end to the War on Drugs at a United Nations General Assembly Special Session. In 2016, he also circulated a petition imploring Congress to expand medical cannabis access to veterans.

    Rather than leave it up to individual states to fix, O’Rourke believes in the need for federal legislation to truly end the War on Drugs. He regularly talks about the need to legalize marijuana in interviews, social media posts, and in road trip videos.

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  • John Hickenlooper

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    John Hickenlooper
    • Supports Medical Marijuana
    • Supports Recreational Marijuana
    • Introduced/Co-sponsored Cannabis Legislation
    • Approved/Voted in Favor of Cannabis Legislation

    Former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper’s views on cannabis have evolved significantly over recent years, although he still has yet to endorse full legalization.

    As Colorado Governor, Hickenlooper was initially opposed to voters approving a marijuana legalization ballot measure in 2012, describing the outcome as “reckless.” Since then, however, he’s helped implement the initiative and respected the will of the voters by signing a wide range of cannabis-related bills into law. He’s also become increasingly supportive of Colorado’s legal cannabis system, acknowledging many of his early concerns never came to fruition.

    Hickenlooper remained personally opposed to cannabis legalization for years, even while making earnest attempts to implement Colorado’s marijuana law, but during a panel in 2016 the governor admitted that if given a “magic wand” to reverse the election that legalized cannabis, he’s “not sure I’d wave it. It’s beginning to look like [legalization] might work.” In 2018, Hickenlooper announced his administration was moving forward with plans to dismiss convictions for nonviolent marijuana offenders.

    Hickenlooper has also helped push for federal cannabis reform. In 2017, he joined the three other governors in states with active marijuana markets at the time in writing a letter directed to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, urging them not to interfere with their adult use programs. He also suggested that Colorado would go to court to fight a federal marijuana intervention. The following year, he was one of 12 governors to sign a letter encouraging Congress to support and pass the STATES Act, a piece of broad cannabis legislation that would permit states to legalize cannabis.

    Hickenlooper is a full supporter of medical marijuana and has publicly come out in support for the Medical Cannabis Research Act, which would make researching cannabis easier. In 2014, he signed a bill to fund $9 million in marijuana research.

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  • John Delaney

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    John Delaney
    • Supports Medical Marijuana
    • Supports Recreational Marijuana
    • Introduced/Co-sponsored Cannabis Legislation
    • Approved/Voted in Favor of Cannabis Legislation

    Like most Democrats running for their party’s 2020 presidential nomination, former U.S. Rep. John Delaney (D-MD) would like to reform federal marijuana laws. He has not, however, been as outspoken regarding marijuana reform since announcing his campaign and has not endorsed full marijuana legalization. Instead, his office has said he “supports removing marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, allowing states to set their own policy on legalization, and implementing sweeping federal regulatory policies and taxation on its use.”

    Delaney proved to be a supporter of cannabis reform during his time as U.S. Representative for Maryland’s 6th congressional district between 2013 and 2019. He co-sponsored seven different bills related to cannabis, including bills that would protect patients and individuals participating in their state’s legal medical marijuana program. He also backed a bill to shield banks that work with marijuana businesses, and signed onto legislation that would remove CBD from the Controlled Substances Act.

    Whenever given the opportunity, Delaney voted in favor of amendments aimed at allowing state-legal marijuana programs to operate without federal intervention. He also voted ‘yes’ on a measure protecting CBD-only states, and a wide-encompassing amendment that protects all legal marijuana states from interference by the Justice Department. The former congressman also voted in favor of amendments to give veterans legal access to medical marijuana and to eliminate federal restrictions on hemp.

    Most of Delaney’s support for cannabis reform has primarily come from his legislative actions. He’s remained relatively quiet on his stance on cannabis and rarely addresses the issue in public comments and on social media. He did, however, speak out after then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded an Obama-era policy that directed prosecutors to not prioritize cannabis cases.

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  • Gov. Jay Inslee

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    Gov. Jay Inslee
    • Supports Medical Marijuana
    • Supports Recreational Marijuana
    • Introduced/Co-sponsored Cannabis Legislation
    • Approved/Voted in Favor of Cannabis Legislation

    As governor of one of the very first U.S. states to legalize adult use cannabis, Jay Inslee has become a champion of legalized marijuana. Inslee was initially opposed to the recreational marijuana ballot initiative approved by Washington voters in 2012, but he’s since embraced and become protective of his state’s legal market. In a speech in early 2019, he declared it time for the rest of the nation to follow in Washington’s footsteps and legalize cannabis.

    As governor, Inslee has signed onto law various bills that expanded the state’s medical marijuana program and allowed for hemp cultivation. Most recently, Inslee launched a program aimed at speeding up the expungements of past misdemeanor marijuana convictions.

    During his time as a U.S. Representative, Inslee signed on to co-sponsor a bill that would reschedule marijuana and protect state-legal medical marijuana programs from federal interference. He also voted in favor of multiple floor amendments aimed at shielding states with legal marijuana.

    Inslee also came to the defense of Washington’s legal marijuana industry in 2017 after the Donald Trump Administration indicated it may impose a crackdown. The governor joined three others in states with legal marijuana in writing a letter directed to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, requesting they maintain a “hands off” approach with states that have passed their own cannabis policies. When Sessions responded by challenging Inslee’s claim that Washington state’s marijuana program was effectively regulated, Inslee followed-up and also criticized Sessions for being “much more attentive to his old ideology than to the new facts.” He also indicated that Washington could pursue legal action to protect its industry after Sessions rescinded the Cole memo in 2018.

    In early 2018, Inslee and governors from 11 other states called on Congress to pass the STATES Act, which would give states the authority to legalize marijuana without fear of federal interference. He and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper also sent a letter to Congress in 2013, calling for federal banking reform.

    Inslee has predicted that federal marijuana legalization is inevitable and in March 2019 said that the issue has reached a “tipping point.”

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  • Rep. Tim Ryan

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    Rep. Tim Ryan
    • Supports Medical Marijuana
    • Supports Recreational Marijuana
    • Introduced/Co-sponsored Cannabis Legislation
    • Approved/Voted in Favor of Cannabis Legislation

    While longtime U.S. House Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) was initially reluctant to get behind marijuana legalization, he has since called for marijuana to be legal in all 50 states. Arguing that illegal marijuana is both “morally wrong” and “economically nonsensical,” Ryan in 2018 wrote a highly-circulated pro-cannabis opinion piece for CNN in which he described coming around to legalization after witnessing the harms of prohibition.

    In that CNN op-ed, Ryan also announced he was co-sponsoring the House version of the Marijuana Justice Act, a bill that would remove marijuana’s designation as a Schedule I substance while incentivizing states to stop enforcing marijuana laws disproportionately. He also co-sponsored the STATES Act, a bill to give individual states full reign over how they regulate marijuana, and the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, which would legalize and regulate cannabis at the federal level.

    While serving Ohio’s 13th district for nearly two decades, Ryan also has many times voted in favor of amendments aimed at protecting legal cannabis operations, including two measures to shield states with legal medical marijuana from federal interference, as well as a more far-reaching proposal that protects both medical and recreational marijuana states. He also voted ‘yes’ to an amendment that would allow doctors with Veterans Affairs to recommend medical marijuana to veterans, and in separate proposals helped protect hemp and CBD programs with his vote.

    Besides his CNN opinion piece, Ryan remains relatively quiet on his advocacy for cannabis reform. Any tweets and public statements he’s made regarding cannabis appear to have been announcing his sponsorship of reform-related legislation.

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  • Rep. Eric Swalwell

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    Rep. Eric Swalwell
    • Supports Medical Marijuana
    • Supports Recreational Marijuana
    • Introduced/Co-sponsored Cannabis Legislation
    • Approved/Voted in Favor of Cannabis Legislation

    Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) has actively contributed to the effort to reform federal cannabis policy throughout his six-plus years as a member of the U.S. House. In 2013, early in his tenure, Swalwell co-sponsored several bills aimed at ending prohibition and allowing states to pass their own cannabis policies without federal interference. Among the many cannabis reform bills he has backed is the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, which would remove marijuana from the federal controlled substances list so that states could regulate marijuana as they choose, and the States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act, aimed at removing cannabis as a Schedule I substance and encouraging more research into its potential therapeutic properties.

    A former prosecutor, Swalwell has said in the past that he acknowledges the effort to curtail substance use, but believes enforcement agencies should devote resources on more serious matters. In 2014, he joined several colleagues in the House in a letter directed to Barack Obama, urging that he instruct his attorney general to either delist or reclassify marijuana because of the “lives and resourced [that] are wasted on enforcing harsh, unrealistic, and unfair marijuana laws.” In 2016, Swalwell signed onto to several letters to Obama, encouraging him to push for the rescheduling of marijuana and to remove barriers to medical marijuana research. Later, he called on leaders in the House to back protections for states with legal medical marijuana.

    Nearly every time when given the chance, Swalwell has voted in favor of pro-cannabis amendments. He voted ‘yes’ on measures protecting states with legalized medical marijuana, as well as for a wider proposal protecting both medical and recreational marijuana states. He also voted in favor of amendments to legalize hemp, protect banks that work with marijuana businesses, and legally allow Veterans Affairs doctors to recommend medical cannabis. One time in 2016, he was absent from a House floor vote on the same amendment to give veterans access to medical cannabis that he had voted ‘yes’ for the year prior.

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  • Julián Castro

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    Julián Castro
    • Supports Medical Marijuana
    • Supports Recreational Marijuana
    • Introduced/Co-sponsored Cannabis Legislation
    • Approved/Voted in Favor of Cannabis Legislation

    Former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro has made very few statements related to his views on cannabis and it remains unclear whether he supports legalizing it for medical or recreational use. In February 2014, when he was San Antonio mayor, Castro was asked about his stance on legalizing marijuana and responded that he was still undecided.

    Castro has, however, criticized the Donald Trump Administration for signaling it would crack down on state-legal cannabis operations. In 2017, he took to Twitter and Facebook to refer to the White House suggesting it would interfere in recreational marijuana “a mistake.” In early 2018, he also retweeted a post on Twitter that included the statement: “Legalizing marijuana must include a push for restorative justice.” This social media activity could suggest that Castro at minimum believes states should have the right to legalize cannabis as they see fit.

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  • Pete Buttigieg

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    Pete Buttigieg
    • Supports Medical Marijuana
    • Supports Recreational Marijuana
    • Introduced/Co-sponsored Cannabis Legislation
    • Approved/Voted in Favor of Cannabis Legislation

    Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has remained relatively quiet on his cannabis views. However, he has come out in support of marijuana legalization, which he sees as critical for social justice. In March 2019, he told the Boston Globe that “the safe, regulated, and legal sale of marijuana is an idea whose time has come for the United States.”

    At SXSW in March 2019, Buttigieg shared a story of being caught with a marijuana joint while in college by a police officer. Buttiegieg said that the police officer letting him off with just a berating, when others would have faced more serious, lifelong consequences due to racial disparities in enforcement, has informed his position on cannabis reform.

    Throughout his time as mayor, Buttigieg has not had the opportunity to sign any legislation directly related to cannabis. He did approve an ordinance in 2017 that prohibited the sale of synthetic marijuana, which are dangerous laboratory-produced chemicals that are not marijuana at all and are not meant for human consumption.

    Buttigieg’s quiet voice on cannabis reform suggests that he does not intend to make the legalization issue central to his campaign, and it’s difficult to say how he would approach cannabis policy if elected. His comments acknowledging the racial injustices of prohibition and support for legalizing at least indicates he wouldn’t prohibit reform efforts from advancing.

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  • Andrew Yang

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    Andrew Yang
    • Supports Medical Marijuana
    • Supports Recreational Marijuana
    • Introduced/Co-sponsored Cannabis Legislation
    • Approved/Voted in Favor of Cannabis Legislation

    Entrepreneur and businessman Andrew Yang has made legalizing marijuana a major component of his 2020 platform. Citing the “need to resolve the ambiguity” between state and federal marijuana laws and describing the criminalization of marijuana as “stupid and racist,” Yang has called for legalizing marijuana at the federal level.

    On his 2020 policy page, Yang claims if elected President he would support the full legalization of marijuana, expunge federal convictions of offenses related to marijuana use or possession, and reduce punishments of non-violent drug offenders by offering probation or early release.

    Since Yang has not held political office, he has not had the opportunity yet to introduce, co-sponsor, or vote on cannabis legislation.

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  • Wayne Messam

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    Wayne Messam
    • Supports Medical Marijuana
    • Supports Recreational Marijuana
    • Introduced/Co-sponsored Cannabis Legislation
    • Approved/Voted in Favor of Cannabis Legislation

    Wayne Messam, who won a second term as mayor of Miramar, Florida in March 2019, has not made his stance on marijuana legalization clear. His 2020 campaign page does not include cannabis reform as one of his priorities.

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  • Marianne Williamson

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    Marianne Williamson
    • Supports Medical Marijuana
    • Supports Recreational Marijuana
    • Introduced/Co-sponsored Cannabis Legislation
    • Approved/Voted in Favor of Cannabis Legislation

    Known best as Oprah’s spiritual advisor, Marianne Willliamson has not been vocal about her stance on marijuana, but has indicated that she “wholeheartedly” supports legalization. Her 2020 policy page does not include cannabis reform as an issue, but mass incarceration and criminal justice are prominently featured on her platform, suggesting she could be aware of the racial disparities associated with prohibition enforcement.

    Williamson has never held political office, so she has not had the opportunity to introduce, co-sponsor, or vote for cannabis legislation.

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Disclaimer: Any reference to any person or party does not constitute our endorsement or recommendation of them.

Post by Eve Ripley

Eve is a writer specializing in cannabis education and editorials related to cannabis industry news.
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