BY MARIE LODI
The 2020 presidential election will decide the immediate future of cannabis in the United States. We recently looked at five of the frontrunners’ stances on the big question of federal legalization. Ahead, a rundown of the legalization stances among three additional Democratic candidates.
New Jersey Senator Cory Booker vows to make drug laws more equitable as a facet of his larger campaign commitment to justice reform, and went so far as to reintroduce legalization legislation at the federal level in February 2019. “I get angry when I see people taking just one step — legalizing marijuana — without doing anything to address past harms,” Booker said in an interview with Rolling Stone in May 2019. “Suddenly, you’re legalizing marijuana, and all of these people, who used marijuana in the past but were never caught, are lining up to get business licenses, who are not diverse — in the very communities that are black and brown and low-income, where there are people who wanted those business opportunities but aren’t getting them because of past convictions, or because they don’t have capital to start businesses.” When it comes to the Democratic candidates, Booker is at the top of the list (along with Beto O’Rourke — more on his cannabis views in a moment) for showing the most initiative for enacting cannabis legislation alongside a focus on criminal justice reform.
While he previously had not taken a formal stance on cannabis legalization, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg has since expressed he is in favor of legalization for both medical and recreational cannabis use. “I don’t recommend smoking anything, but not only are there important medical uses, but we’ve just hit at the point as a country where there are a lot of offenses, including I think a lot of non-violent drug offenses, where the way we responded to it — the incarceration — is actually doing more harm to society,” Buttigieg said during a forum hosted by AARP in Iowa in July 2019. “The safe, regulated, and legal sale of marijuana is an idea whose time has come for the United States, as evidenced by voters demanding legalization in states across the country,” he told The Boston Globe. In his book, Shortest Way Home, he admitted to having used cannabis: “[N]ot many [times], but more than zero.” However, he expanded on his personal use during an interview in March 2019 at South By Southwest. Buttigieg talked about getting caught with a joint by a campus police officer while he was a student at Harvard University, and how the particular experience revealed his white privilege. “That can be a funny story to me,” Buttigieg said. “And if I were not white, the odds of that having been something that would have derailed my life are exponentially higher. So that’s one of many moments when I learned a thing or two about privilege."
Entrepreneur Andrew Yang is another Democratic candidate who has been vocal in his advocacy for cannabis legalization, tweeting in July 2019 that legalization would “improve safety, social equity, and generate billions of dollars in new revenue based on legal cannabis businesses.” Yang also admitted that while he didn’t “love marijuana,” the criminalization of it was “stupid and racist.” He is also in support of criminal justice reform, saying that people who have been jailed for non-violent, marijuana-related offenses should be pardoned. “I’m for the legalization of marijuana, remove it from the Controlled Substance List, in part because our administration of the criminal laws are deeply racist. It’s very obvious to everyone,” Yang said during an interview on The Breakfast Club. “So, on April 20, 2021, I’m going to pardon everyone who’s in prison for a non-violent drug offense, because it makes no sense to have people in jail for stuff that’s legal in some parts of the country.”
This story and many more are available in the Fall "Freedom" issue of EMBER magazine. You can grab a copy at your local MedMen store, Barnes and Noble, or Hudson News.