This post, Where Do The Presidential Candidates Stand On Marijuana Legalization?, originally appeared in the New Frontier CannaBit blog.
Pro-cannabis positions reflect changing American attitudes towards the issue
For an election that has been defined by disagreements, harsh rhetoric, and historically high disapproval of the Democratic and Republican Party nominees, the 2016 Presidential Election also represents the first time in history that the top 4 candidates support some form of marijuana legalization.
However, this may not be as surprising as it sounds.
Voter attitudes about marijuana legalization have been changing over the last few decades. As New Frontier identified earlier this year, a majority of Americans support medical marijuana legalization. In 2015, we compiled data that showed support for marijuana legalization had increased from 12% in 1969 to 58% in 2015.
This change in public perception is reflected this year in the record number of ballot measures supporting varying forms of marijuana legalization. States such as Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota have medical marijuana laws on the ballot, while Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada have marijuana legalization laws on the ballot.
By far, California represents the biggest game-changer in marijuana legalization. The legal cannabis market in California is currently the largest in the U.S., and comprised 62% of all medical cannabis sales and 48% of all cannabis sales (medical and adult use markets combined) in 2015. If voters approve legalization, California’s market could grow to $6.46 billion by 2020.
To learn more about the California market, read our report: 2016 Legal Cannabis Market – State Profile – California.
With the growing support for marijuana legalization from Americans, where do the top 2016 presidential candidates stand?
Below is a list of where each candidate stands on the issue of marijuana legalization. Our research was compiled from public statements from the candidates available in the media. Candidates are listed alphabetically by last name.
Hillary Clinton is cautious on the issue of marijuana legalization.
In 2014, during a CNN Town Hall, she advocated more research on medical marijuana. In 2015 and 2016, Clinton has remained consistent on this issue, and expressed a desire to learn more about how marijuana interacts with other drugs that people normally take before making any large-scale federal action.
Clinton favors state efforts in changing marijuana laws. She has said that she will not use federal law enforcement to override state laws. She also supports reclassifying cannabis from a Schedule I to Schedule II if she is elected. Overall, Clinton wants a reduction in criminal prosecution for marijuana possession at the state and federal level.
She has expressed support of marijuana use for people who suffer from serious medical conditions, provided that there was anecdotal evidence that it would work for their condition, and it is legal in their state.
Gary Johnson is an outspoken advocate for legalizing and regulating marijuana for medical and adult use. He said he will remove it from the federal drug schedules. Johnson supports all state efforts to legalize and regulate marijuana, and has endorsed marijuana legalization laws on various state ballots in 2016.
Johnson has said that if California legalizes adult-use in November that it will have a significant impact on legislatures across the country and increase the likelihood that legalization spreads to more states. He has said that marijuana legalization will become a health issue, and not a criminal issue.
Dr. Jill Stein is an advocate for legalizing and regulating marijuana for medical and adult use nationwide.
She believes marijuana legalization is a health issue and should not be a criminal issue.
Stein said she will order the DEA and Justice Department to stop prosecuting medical marijuana clinics in states where medical marijuana is legal. She also favors removing marijuana from Schedule I and reclassifying it, but she has not indicated which schedule it will fall under or if it would be removed completely.
Donald Trump favors state efforts to legalize marijuana, but opposes federal legalization. In the 1990s, Trump favored legalization of all drugs, and has routinely criticized the “war on drugs” as being ineffective and a waste of taxpayer dollars.
In an interview on C-SPAN in 2015, Trump said he supports medical marijuana 100%. In 2016, Trump has spoken about medical marijuana and continued to voice support. Overall, Trump has expressed a genuine concern for people with serious health problems, including veterans who suffer from PTSD, and for cancer patients. Any reservations Trump has about marijuana legalization for adult-use appear to center on his concern about marijuana’s impact on the brain, and other potential negative health impacts.
Trump favors scientific research of marijuana to better understand its short-term and long-term health effects, and favors studying how states, specifically citing Colorado, have implemented marijuana legalization laws.