We have our first round of results in the presidential primaries, and the field is starting to shrink. The first piece of good news for cannabis businesses is that Chris Christie is out. Of all the candidates, Christie was the only one who was absolutely clear that he would interfere with legalization efforts around the country. Who knows if Christie’s position hurt him with voters, but it is worth noting that even the majority of Republicans believe the states should be able to chart their own path regarding pot legalization.
As U.S. opinions on cannabis continue to shift, this kind of talk isn’t going to help you get elected:
What about the other candidates? Here’s a look at the top six still in the race, based on betfair odds.
Hillary Clinton: Despite being dogged by both email server issues and a surprisingly large number of people supporting Bernie Sanders, there’s still a feeling of inevitability that Hillary will be our next president. Hillary tends to take a nuanced, careful approach to most issues, and marijuana is no exception. Though she has never been a full-throated legalization advocate, she also isn’t trying to throw everyone in jail. Her most often stated position is that she wants to: “move from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2 so researchers can research what’s the best way to use it, dosage, how does it work with other medications” But what does that mean in practice? Schedule 2 drugs are seen as having a high potential for abuse, but some medical use with severe restrictions. These drugs are tested and sold by pharmaceutical companies, not over the counter. She still hasn’t been really clear on what this means for businesses in Washington, Colorado, and Oregon, so we’ll have to see if she clarifies her position as the race goes on.
Donald Trump: Like just about every other issue of note, pinning Trump down on a marijuana position is an inexact science. On Bill O’Reilly’s show, Trump responded to a question about whether he would stop marijuana legalization, by saying: “I would, I would really want to think about that one Bill because in some ways, I think it’s good and in other ways, it’s bad.” I don’t know what that means, and chances are neither does he.
Marco Rubio: Of all the Republicans left in the race, Rubio should make marijuana business owners feel the most insecure. Though Rubio has expressed some sympathy for state decriminalization of marijuana possession, he has consistently hinted at strong federal enforcement against cannabis businesses. In April of last year, he told ABC News: “Marijuana is illegal under federal law. That should be enforced. I understand that states have decided to legalize possession under state law, but the trafficking, the sale of these products, that’s a federal crime.” Then in August, he said in another interview, when pressed on whether he would go after Washington and Colorado: “Well, the federal government needs to enforce federal law.”
Bernie Sanders: Bernie is the only pro-marijuana candidate in the field. He has introduced a bill to legalize marijuana at the federal level and he has shown no signs that he would enforce federal law in states that have legalized.
Jeb Bush: He doesn’t like marijuana, but he is also not a big fan of the federal government, so the chances of him going after legalization states seems pretty low. In September, Jeb! had this to say: “ What goes on in Colorado, as far as I’m concerned, that should be a state decision. But if you look at the problem of drugs in society today, it’s a serious problem. It is appropriate for the government to play a consistent role to be able to provide more treatment, more prevention. In Florida, there are drug courts to give people a second chance. Medical marijuana on the ballot was opened up, there was a huge loophole, it was the first step. As a citizen of Florida, I voted no.”
Ted Cruz: Though no fighter for legalization, Cruz doesn’t seem opposed to allowing states to set their own policies. At the Conservative Political Action Conference in March, Cruz said this about legalization, “I actually think this is a great embodiment of what Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis called the ‘laboratories of democracy.’ If the citizens of Colorado decide they want to go down that road, that’s their prerogative. I personally don’t agree with it, but it’s their right.”
So there you have it. How do you plan to vote and how much influence will a candidate’s position on cannabis have on your vote?