As the 2016 presidential race heats up the candidates are increasingly talking about marijuana, with some proactively campaigning on pro-reform platforms and others only addressing the issue when asked by voters or journalists.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was asked on Monday night during an appearance in Iowa whether she would support or oppose legalization as president, and responded that she “would support states and localities that are experimenting with this.”
While Clinton, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, has previously called states “the laboratories of democracy” and said, “I want to wait and see what the evidence is,” the new remarks, made during a question-and-answer session at Luther College, are the clearest indication yet that she would respect state marijuana laws if elected.
On Monday Clinton also criticized federal barriers to research on marijuana. There is “a lot of anecdotal evidence” that marijuana has medical benefits, she said, “but we have no [scientific]evidence because researchers can’t experiment with marijuana because it’s a controlled substance,” according to a rush transcript of the remarks obtained by Marijuana.com.
“We have people trying to help kids with cancer, we have people who deserve to have [access to medical cannabis]but we don’t know what interaction with other drugs, what right dosage are because can’t conduct research,” she said. “If we’re going to pass medical marijuana, we have to allow research and try to get real science.”
Other candidates are being more proactive about their views on marijuana.
Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, also a Democrat, is planning to hold what his campaign is calling a “Marijuana Legalization Listening Session” on Thursday at the Denver offices of a law firm that specializes in marijuana policy. “O’Malley will hear from policymakers, experts, business owners, and law enforcement about how Colorado’s decision to legalize marijuana has been working and affecting communities across the state,” according to a news advisory his campaign sent to Marijuana.com.
O’Malley, who signed marijuana decriminalization and medical cannabis bills into law as governor despite previously opposing reform, has also made rescheduling the drug a part of his campaign platform. And, he has touted Maryland’s decriminalization law in a speech before the National Urban League and in appearances on Democracy Now! and MSNBC’s All In With Chris Hayes.
It is unclear whether O’Malley plans to issue an expanded call for marijuana reform following this week’s listening session, or if such a new platform would include an outright endorsement of legalization.
While several candidates have pledged to respect state marijuana laws if elected president, no major Republican or Democratic contender has personally endorsed legalization as a good policy.
O’Malley could do so this week, while some advocates believe Bernie Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont who is also running for the Democratic nomination, will be the first candidate to back an end to prohibition. Sanders, who has already endorsed decriminalization and medical marijuana, has said he will “watch very closely to see the pluses and minuses” of state legalization laws and has indicated that he’ll release a comprehensive marijuana policy platform sometime in the coming weeks.
On the Republican side, most leading candidates have said they would support the right of states to enact their own marijuana laws without federal interference even though they personally opposed legalization, although New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, of Florida, have said they would enforce federal marijuana laws even in states that have voted for legalization.
Nothing in this post should be construed as support for or opposition to any candidate for public office. The above merely constitutes reporting of candidates’ stated positions on marijuana policy.