Marijuana law and the 2020 elections

Once a politically volatile subject, marijuana reforms have become a major campaign topic in the upcoming election.  Both the Democratic and Republican presidential hopefuls are staking out positions on whether to allow legal medical or recreational marijuana use or maintain its illegality.

Marijuana legalization has taken root in the Democratic presidential nominations with most of the contenders supporting changes to the laws.  New Jersey senator Cory Booker is sponsoring the Marijuana Justice Act, which looks to legalize marijuana nationwide.  The bill has so far received considerable support, including from some of his fellow candidates.

Senators Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillibrand (who dropped out of the presidential race in August), and Elizabeth Warren have all signed on to Booker's bill.

Former vice president Joe Biden is the only exception among the Democratic candidates.  Biden has long positioned himself as a drug warrior.  During his long career in Congress, Biden served as the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he championed more stringent rules and federal support for anti-cannabis efforts.

Currently, Biden supports removing marijuana from being a Schedule 1 controlled substance.  This would allow states to decide whether to legalize marijuana or not and open up more scientific testing on marijuana's possible medicinal benefits.  He is likely to call for deleting marijuana-related criminal records.

One of the main reasons for most of the nominees' stance is what they refer to as "racial justice."  They are also looking at the legalization of marijuana as a means of creating jobs, revenue, and taxes and promoting equity.

All this differs markedly from the 2016 race, when Sanders was the only major-party candidate to call for the legalization of marijuana.  Intense behind-the-scenes lobbying after that has seen a significant rise in the perception toward cannabis.  Currently, over 75% of Democrats support legalization compared to 56% of Republicans.

Donald Trump has yet to take any definite stand on marijuana, whether for or against legalization.  So far, during his presidency, Trump has signed into law the 2018 Farm Bill, which provides for legalizing hemp.  He has also indicated that he would support states writing their own marijuana policies.

Even after supporting the legalizing of hemp and the federal approach to marijuana, Trump's plans for how he intends to handle the cannabis issue remain unclear.

Recent polling indicates that over 65% of the voters support the legalization of marijuana.  This implies that the candidate with a clear cannabis policy may benefit in terms of votes and funding.  The cannabis industry, while not having the financial might of many other industries and interests, may back candidates who share its views.

How much impact marijuana will have on the presidential election remains unclear.  What is clear, though, is that the stand on marijuana legalization by the Democratic candidates might determine who faces Donald Trump on the ballot.

The most significant step in marijuana reforms took place in 2016, when seven states voted for either medical programs or adult use of marijuana.  Massachusetts, Nevada, California, and Maine allowed adult use, while Arkansas, North Dakota, and Florida legalized medical use.

Several more states, such as New York, New Mexico, and Connecticut, are on line to pass their own reforms by 2020.  As more states adopt the marijuana reform laws, the odds increase that congressional Republicans will take similar action due to the GOP's emphasis on states' rights.

With the presidential elections months away, all the presidential candidates are likely to articulate a clear stand on marijuana policy reform at some point.  In the end, it is up to the electorate to decide if they prefer some form of legalization or would like to maintain the status quo.

Eric Mitchell (USMC-ret.) is the CEO of LifeFlip Media, a nationally recognized P.R. professional, and a GOP analyst.

Once a politically volatile subject, marijuana reforms have become a major campaign topic in the upcoming election.  Both the Democratic and Republican presidential hopefuls are staking out positions on whether to allow legal medical or recreational marijuana use or maintain its illegality.

Marijuana legalization has taken root in the Democratic presidential nominations with most of the contenders supporting changes to the laws.  New Jersey senator Cory Booker is sponsoring the Marijuana Justice Act, which looks to legalize marijuana nationwide.  The bill has so far received considerable support, including from some of his fellow candidates.

Senators Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillibrand (who dropped out of the presidential race in August), and Elizabeth Warren have all signed on to Booker's bill.

Former vice president Joe Biden is the only exception among the Democratic candidates.  Biden has long positioned himself as a drug warrior.  During his long career in Congress, Biden served as the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he championed more stringent rules and federal support for anti-cannabis efforts.

Currently, Biden supports removing marijuana from being a Schedule 1 controlled substance.  This would allow states to decide whether to legalize marijuana or not and open up more scientific testing on marijuana's possible medicinal benefits.  He is likely to call for deleting marijuana-related criminal records.

One of the main reasons for most of the nominees' stance is what they refer to as "racial justice."  They are also looking at the legalization of marijuana as a means of creating jobs, revenue, and taxes and promoting equity.

All this differs markedly from the 2016 race, when Sanders was the only major-party candidate to call for the legalization of marijuana.  Intense behind-the-scenes lobbying after that has seen a significant rise in the perception toward cannabis.  Currently, over 75% of Democrats support legalization compared to 56% of Republicans.

Donald Trump has yet to take any definite stand on marijuana, whether for or against legalization.  So far, during his presidency, Trump has signed into law the 2018 Farm Bill, which provides for legalizing hemp.  He has also indicated that he would support states writing their own marijuana policies.

Even after supporting the legalizing of hemp and the federal approach to marijuana, Trump's plans for how he intends to handle the cannabis issue remain unclear.

Recent polling indicates that over 65% of the voters support the legalization of marijuana.  This implies that the candidate with a clear cannabis policy may benefit in terms of votes and funding.  The cannabis industry, while not having the financial might of many other industries and interests, may back candidates who share its views.

How much impact marijuana will have on the presidential election remains unclear.  What is clear, though, is that the stand on marijuana legalization by the Democratic candidates might determine who faces Donald Trump on the ballot.

The most significant step in marijuana reforms took place in 2016, when seven states voted for either medical programs or adult use of marijuana.  Massachusetts, Nevada, California, and Maine allowed adult use, while Arkansas, North Dakota, and Florida legalized medical use.

Several more states, such as New York, New Mexico, and Connecticut, are on line to pass their own reforms by 2020.  As more states adopt the marijuana reform laws, the odds increase that congressional Republicans will take similar action due to the GOP's emphasis on states' rights.

With the presidential elections months away, all the presidential candidates are likely to articulate a clear stand on marijuana policy reform at some point.  In the end, it is up to the electorate to decide if they prefer some form of legalization or would like to maintain the status quo.

Eric Mitchell (USMC-ret.) is the CEO of LifeFlip Media, a nationally recognized P.R. professional, and a GOP analyst.