It seems that the legalization of cannabis, once an uncertain no-man’s land for political candidates, is losing its taboo edge in the face of overwhelming public support. Even in recent weeks, legalization of marijuana at the federal level was either met with a hard line of disapproval (as in the case of Chris Christie) or a non-committal wait-and-see approach (perhaps stated most succinctly by Hillary Clinton). Following the GOP’s 3rd
national debate, Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders made headlines by going where no candidate has gone before: declaring that Marijuana should be de-classified as a Schedule 1 drug. Sanders’ viewpoint may have stretched the furthest thus far but it’s simply the lead in a pack of candidates cautiously scrambling to prove to voters that they’re not out to take away their weed.
The Boldest Statement on Marijuana Legalization by a Candidate
Despite Sanders’ personal history with marijuana (he claims to have only tried weed twice and to not have particularly enjoyed it), he stole thunder from the 3rd
GOP debate by declaring, “In my view, states should have the right to regulate marijuana the same way that state and local laws now govern sales of alcohol and tobacco.” While Sanders proclamation may seem risky, it comes on the heels of polls showing up to 81% of Americans supporting the legalization of cannabis. His progressive stance was lauded by marijuana lobbyists who had been calling for de-scheduling. Marijuana’s classification as a Schedule 1 drug makes it difficult to properly research for medical purposes; an obstacle the academic community recently criticized in a paper from the Brookings Institute
A Simple Joke About the Legalization of Cannabis
Last Wednesday, the GOP squared off for their 3rd
national debate with the stage set in Colorado, the first state to legalize marijuana for recreational use. While many could see the softening postures of candidates as a response to Sanders bold statements on the federal legalization of cannabis, the tide was already turning as evidenced by a comment made by the highly conservative Republican candidate Ted Cruz. In a move that recognized the setting of the debate, Senator Cruz graciously offered to buy “some famous Colorado brownies” for Carl Quintanilla of CNBC. While the comment was obviously made in jest, it’s still a telling moment to see a staunch opponent to the legalization of cannabis take such a relaxed approach. Cruz had initially criticized the Obama administration for not cracking down on Colorado’s decision to legalize marijuana. However, this isn’t the first time Cruz has shown an evolution of perspective, having later shown support for state’s rights in choosing marijuana legalization despite a personal disagreement.
Trump’s Slightly Softer Line on Cannabis Legalization
Following Sanders’ statements of de-scheduling marijuana, outspoken Republican candidate Donald Trump also gave a bit on previous statements opposing the legalization of cannabis. In a rally that followed the 3rd
GOP debates, Trump stated directly that he felt states should have the right to determine their own marijuana laws. Like Cruz, Trump is no stranger to a change in perspective. Recently, Trump had been quoted when asked about the legalization of cannabis, “I say it’s bad. Medical marijuana is another thing, but I think it’s bad and I feel strongly about it.’ Trump echoed these sentiments numerous times, asking for voters to look for the flaws that followed in the wake of Colorado’s legalization of marijuana. This was a far cry from an infamous statement Trump made in April 1990, declaring his belief that all drugs should be legalized in the U.S. as a means of removing funding from drug czars.
With a year to go until the presidential election, a lot will obviously change. It’s still difficult to predict whether Sanders’ statement will raise the bar for candidates’ public perspective on the legalization of cannabis or whether this was a momentary blip designed to coincide with the GOP’s visit to the first state to legalize marijuana. However, if the polls are accurate, it will be difficult for candidates to ignore the support of legalization by 81% of U.S. citizens.