The four major party candidates for President have varying views regarding recreational and medicinal cannabis legalization.
The next President of the United States could either support the expansion or hinder the nation’s legal cannabis market. Currently, cannabis is categorized as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act, which impedes research and allows for recreational and medical use only in states that pass additional laws.
Support for cannabis reform is at an all-time high in the United States. A recent Gallup poll found that one in eight adult Americans (13 percent) say they use marijuana, and nearly half the country (43 percent) has at least tried it. More than half of Americans want to see marijuana legalized.
Currently, 25 states have legalized medical marijuana, while four states and Washington D.C. have legalized marijuana for recreational use. Nine states will vote on cannabis initiatives this coming November.
Currently, the CARERS Act (Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States Act), a bill that would reschedule cannabis from a Schedule I to a Schedule II substance and make it federally legal to use medicinally, is stalled in the U.S. Senate’s Judiciary Committee.
The four major party candidates for President, Hillary Clinton (Democratic Party), Donald Trump (Republican Party), Gary Johnson (Libertarian Party), and Jill Stein (Green Party), hold different views regarding cannabis legalization that could heavily influence the future of the nation’s cannabis market.
Hillary Clinton (D)
- Recreational Legalization: Supports states’ rights to legalize adult use marijuana.
- Medical Marijuana Expansion: Recognizes medicinal benefits of marijuana and supports states’ rights to legalize medical marijuana.
Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton hasn’t come out in support of full cannabis legalization, but she has laid out a three-part plan regarding cannabis reform.
The first step in Clinton’s plan is to refocus the efforts of law enforcement on violent crimes. She has said that she supports “alternatives to incarceration” for nonviolent marijuana users. Secondly, Clinton has vowed to take a hands-off approach to states that fully legalize recreational marijuana, saying she believes in “allowing states that have enacted marijuana laws to act as laboratories of democracy.” Lastly, Clinton vows to reschedule marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule II substance in order to facilitate more research on cannabis’ medical benefits.
Most recently, Clinton addressed cannabis legalization during an April 21st broadcast of “Good Morning America.”
“I am 100 percent in favor of medical uses for marijuana,” Clinton said during the broadcast. “I would like to move it from what is called Schedule I to Schedule II so that researchers at universities, national institutes of health can start researching what is the best way to use it, how much of a dose does somebody need, how does it interact with other medications.”
Donald Trump (R)
- Recreational Legalization: Unsure, though most recently has said he does not support adult use legalization.
- Medical Marijuana Expansion: Supports legalizing medicinal cannabis state by state.
Donald Trump has not laid out a structured plan regarding cannabis. While he has made it clear that he is in favor of allowing states to legalize cannabis for medical purposes, his support for legalizing recreational marijuana has wavered several times.
Most recently, during a February 12th appearance on The O’Reilly Factor, Trump criticized Colorado’s legalization of recreational marijuana and referred to cannabis retailers as “dealers” and “pushers.”
When asked by O’Reilly what he would do about Colorado were he in office, Trump said, “I would really want to think about that one, Bill. Because in some ways I think it’s good and in other ways it’s bad. I do want to see what the medical effects are. I have to see what the medical effects are and, by the way — medical marijuana, medical? I’m in favor of it a hundred percent. But what you are talking about, perhaps not. It’s causing a lot of problems out there.”
Last fall, Trump gave more details regarding his thoughts on medical marijuana:
“Marijuana is such a big thing. I think medical should happen — right? Don’t we agree?” Trump said at a political rally last October. “And then I really believe we should leave it up to the states.”
Jill Stein (G)
- Recreational Legalization: Supports the legalization of marijuana in all 50 states.
- Medical Marijuana Expansion: Supports legal access to medicinal cannabis for everyone.
Green Party candidate Jill Stein supports nationwide cannabis legalization. Seeing marijuana legalization as a key to ending the War on Drugs, Stein believes that enforcing marijuana prohibition specifically targets communities of color and is a leading cause for prison overcrowding.
“As president, I wouldn’t want to remove all laws against all drug use,” she says on her site. “But marijuana is a drug that is dangerous because it’s illegal. It isn’t illegal because it’s dangerous. There are drugs in use that are far more harmful than marijuana — such as alcohol. Legalize marijuana and the dangers go away. Regulate it so that children can’t buy it on the street corner.”
She has said that one of her first actions as President “would be to order the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Justice Department to cease and desist all attempts to harass or prosecute medical marijuana clinics or other legitimate marijuana-related businesses that are operating under state laws.”
Stein also claims she would direct the DEA to remove marijuana from Schedule I.
Gary Johnson (L)
- Recreational Legalization: Supports allowing individual states to make their own decisions about both recreational and medical marijuana.
- Medical Marijuana Expansion: Past user of medical marijuana. Supports its expansion.
Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson supports legalizing and regulating marijuana, claiming doing so “will save lives and make our communities safer by eliminating crime and creating an industry that can legitimately participate in America’s economy.”
Johnson has said he would work to remove cannabis from Schedule I of the federal Controlled Substances Act.
He has openly discussed his use of medical marijuana and even served as a CEO of a medical marijuana business in the past.
Bottom Line: Who’s the Best Candidate for Cannabis Advocates?
All four of the major party 2016 presidential candidates acknowledge the medicinal benefits of cannabis and support the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes on at least a state-by-state basis. They vary, however, on their attitudes regarding the legalization of adult use cannabis. Jill Stein and Gary Johnson are the strongest supporters of full legalization.
A recent poll conducted by Marijuana Business Daily surveyed 724 cannabis professionals and investors throughout the United States on their preferred presidential campaign. Hillary Clinton was a landslide top choice, claiming support from 43 percent of cannabis professionals and 45.9 percent of cannabis industry investors. Just 26 percent of cannabis professionals and 37.8 percent of cannabis industry investors favored Donald Trump. Sixteen percent of cannabis professionals and 8.1 percent of cannabis industry investors supported Gary Johnson. Jill Stein was not included in the survey.
The Marijuana Policy Project recently reviewed each of the four major candidates, grading each in regards to their positions on legalizing marijuana. The marijuana policy reform organization gave Hillary Clinton a B+ and Donald Trump a C+. Gary Johnson and Jill Stein both received grades of A+.