The legalization bandwagon is picking up steam heading into 2020’s presidential election as a majority of democratic candidates continue to publicly support federal reform.
Democratic front-runners setting the tone
Out of a handful of the most popular democratic candidates whom have thrown their hat in the ring, almost all support major cannabis reform at the state and federal levels.
Many of the popular front-runners, like Bernie Sanders and Cory Booker, can be found supporting the same pro-cannabis bills, like the Marijuana Justice Act, a bill that would punish states still enforcing prohibition by withholding federal funding.
In his new memoir, Sanders reserved multiple pages to advocate for the Marijuana Justice Act while blasting the failed War on Drugs, writing “How many young people’s lives got off to a bad start because of a police record related to marijuana? Marijuana is not the same as heroin. No one who has seriously studied the issue believes that marijuana should be classified as a Schedule 1 drug beside killer drugs like heroin,”
Booker may not have as extensive as a political career as Sanders, but he has served as an outspoken proponent of reform since joining the US Senate in 2014. Under his leadership, more than a dozen of pro-cannabis proposals have been proposed at the federal level, with most focusing on safer banking practices, criminal justice reform, and the rescheduling of cannabis.
The pair of lawmakers aren’t alone in their pleas for removing cannabis as a Schedule 1 Drug. Other notable candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris have also made recent public comments that support the proposal.
On the popular Youtube series The Breakfast Club, Harris voiced her support for reform by calling for better expungement and rehabilitation processes for Americans with minor cannabis-related arrests – while also admitting to using the plant in her college days; and yes, she did inhale.
While Harris has been showing off her support on popular podcasts series, Warren has utilized social media to highlight the burdens placed on citizens who have been given minor, non-violent charges relating to the plant;
“No one should go to jail for a joint. But more Americans are arrested for marijuana possession than all violent crimes combined. And black Americans are nearly 4x more likely to be arrested for it than whites,” wrote Warren in a series of tweets that highlighted her cannabis-banking bill with Sen. Gardner
With the most popular democratic challengers largely supporting pro-cannabis policies and reform, currently undeclared popular nominees, like Joe Biden, could be forced to change their opinions to meet party and popular demand.
Authenticity is key for voters
With more than 60% of American adults currently supporting legalization, it’s no surprise that the party considered to be more liberal than others would feature a variety of candidates who support legalization.
But for many voters, support isn’t enough; Americans want to know not only what you’re fighting for, but why, and for how long have you acted as a vocal supporter for the cause at hand.
For advocates that have been fighting for reform for decades, candidates who have recently jumped on the bandwagon will likely not impress.
The challenge to appear eager for reform while maintaining authenticity has already effected a major campaign. During Harris’s interview on The Breakfast Club, the former Californian Attorney General joked about having Jamaican relatives and knowing popular rap artists – it was poorly received by many in the community, whom pointed to her strict enforcement of prohibition while serving as AG of California. Currently, her interview hosted by the Breakfast Club features one of the most down-voted interviews posted on the platform, serving as a warning sign to future candidates who are hoping to better-connect to younger audiences.
President Trump and his new Attorney General appear open-minded
In the past, democratic challengers hoping to defeat a current-standing republican president would likely be able to use cannabis as a major differentiation between the two campaigns – but that may not be the case in 2020’s general election.
Trump may not be as progressive in his cannabis policies as Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, but he does appear to be open to change. When Sen. Booker introduced his STATES Act, a bill that would better-protect legalized states from experiencing federal oversight, Trump publicly commented on the bill in a White House press release, stating “I support Sen. Gardner, I know exactly what he’s doing. We’re looking at it. But I probably will end up supporting that, yes.”
Combining these comments with Jeff Sessions resignation, it appears that the Trump’s administration’s crackdown on legalization is over – even his newly appointed Attorney General has promised to stay away from states offering medicinal or adult-use cannabis.
“As discussed at my hearing, I do not intend to go after parties who have complied with state law in reliance on the Cole Memorandum,” explained Barr in his first official hearing.
President Trump is no stranger to appealing to popular demand – it’s possible that he even revamps his pro-cannabis comments to reflect the current national climate leading up to the 2020 election.
Regardless of his official stance, expect the plant to be at the forefront of issues leading up to the 3rd of November, 2020.