When it comes to cannabis legalization, politicians tend to sit on the fence. As an increasing body of scientific research comes out showing cannabis’s therapeutic benefits, it’s becoming harder for politicians to be pro-prohibition, at least when it comes to medical marijuana. Recreational cannabis, on the other hand, is something many politicians oppose or are critical of, at least in public. Votes need to be won, and you need to appeal to your base. If cannabis legalization isn’t near the top of the agenda for the voters in a particular region, it won’t be for the politicians, either.
Another issue that has come under the spotlight in recent months is incarceration, and how cannabis prohibition has had a negative impact upon poor and minority communities in particular. Combined with the increasing mountains of evidence regarding its medical potential, this factor has undoubtedly pushed states to contemplate cannabis legalization a lot more than in previous years. Moreover, with COVID19 having a detrimental impact on the economy, many states want an industry that can help pay at least some of the bills!
Here are some of the politicians who are pro-cannabis legalization (we have included some of the major former office holders as well, as they still exert some influence on current campaigns) …
Democrats Who Are Pro-Cannabis Legalization or Reform
- Michael Bennet – US Senator, Colorado
- Joe Biden – Former Vice President and current Democrat Presidential Nominee
- Cory Booker – US Senator, New Jersey
- Steve Bullock – Governor, Montana
- Peter Buttigieg – Former Mayor, South Bend, Indiana.
- Julián Castro – Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
- Bill de Blasio – New York City Mayor
- Rahm Emanuel – Former Mayor of Chicago
- Tulsi Gabbard – U.S. Representative, Hawaii
- Sara Gideon – House Speaker, Maine
- Kirsten Gillibrand – U.S. Senator, New York
- Al Gore – Former U.S. Vice-President
- Kamala Harris – U.S. Senator, California
- Mary Jennings – Candidate for Senator, Texas
- Jaime Harrison – Associate Chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and former chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party
- John Hickenlooper – Former Governor, Colorado
- Jay Inslee – Governor of Washington
- Amy Klobuchar – US Senator, Minnesota
- Seth Moulton – U.S. Representative, Massachusetts
- Gavin Newsom – Governor, California
- Barack Obama – Former President of the United States
- Beto O’ Rourke – Former U.S. Representative, Texas
- Jon Ossoff – Candidate for Senator, Georgia
- Deval Patrick – Former Governor, Massachusetts
- Jared Polis – Governor of Colorado
- Tim Ryan – U.S. Representative, Ohio
- Bernie Sanders – U.S. Senator, Vermont
- Tina Smith – Senator, Minnesota
- Eric Swalwell – U.S. Representative, California
- Chris Van Hollen – Congressman, Maryland
- Elizabeth Warren – U.S. Senator, Massachusetts
- Marianne Williamson – Self-help Author
There are also a number of prominent Democrats who are not running for Office at the moment, who are pro-cannabis legalization. Andrew Yang and Tom Steyer are two such examples. Representatives Tulsi Gabbard and Don Young (Republican) also introduced The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2019 (HR 1588).
It is generally accepted that cannabis decriminalization or legalization is supported by the majority of Democrats. Expungement of those convicted for non-violent, cannabis-related crimes is also on the table.
However, although some form of reform is on the table for cannabis, it is not a certainty that Democrats would legalize it federally if they win the 2020 Election. In some swing states, it’s clear that being pro-cannabis legalization is one of several key issues that could make-or-break an election result. The “let the states decide” policy may carry on.
Republicans Who Are Pro-Cannabis Legalization or Reform
Historically, Republicans have generally been opposed to cannabis legalization or reform. However, this is changing, as cannabis legalization becomes less of a partisan issue. In fact, many Republicans support cannabis reform or legalization to some extent, although there is a contingent of a similar size who are opposed to legalization. Here’s some of the Republican politicians who want to see cannabis laws change.
- Cory Gardner – Senator, Colorado
- Jason Lewis – Representative, Minnesota
- David Perdue – Senator, Georgia (supports medical marijuana)
- Rick Perry – United States Secretary of Energy
- Dana Rohrabacher – Former Representative, California
- Arnold Schwarzenegger – Former Governor of California
- Thom Tillis – Senator, North Carolina (support is for more research as opposed to full legalization)It is generally more difficult to find Republican politicians who are outspoken in their support for medical or recreational cannabis. Although attitudes have changed in the last couple of years, it’s still not something Republican politicians speak much about, possibly for fear of alienating their core voters.
- Don Young – Dean of the United States House of Representatives
At the moment, cannabis legalization is supported by Democrats more than Republicans. However, things definitely are changing when it comes to attitudes towards cannabis, and the dividing lines are becoming more blurry.
Third Party Cannabis Legalization or Reform Support
Cannabis legalization has been a prominent policy proposal amongst the major third parties for many years, most notably the Libertarian Party and the Green Party. Third parties have often taken more liberal attitudes towards cannabis (think Ralph Nader and Ron Paul, or more recently Jo Jorgensen or Howie Hawkins), but these attitudes weren’t mainstream until recently. There have been many single-issue parties for cannabis legalization over the years, but these parties are usually short-lived.
In fact, many of the attitudes and policy proposals that the main two parties found their home originally in third parties. It is only now that what they’ve been saying for so many years have become policy proposals for the Democrats and Republicans.
Cannabis and Politics: A Changing Landscape
Compared to 20 years ago (or even 5 years ago), attitudes towards cannabis have changed drastically. We have an aging population, and we are in need of medications that can help reduce the need for other, more addictive medications – opioids and sedatives in particular. In fact, seniors are the fastest-growing group of new cannabis users, and no political party can afford to lose votes on bad cannabis legislation.
Combined with younger people, who have become more educated on the harms of various substances (legal or illegal), have started to turn away from alcohol, and are more permissive of cannabis use compared to older generations, and you have a recipe for cannabis reform statewide.
New Legislation Following 2020 Election
On 3rd November 2020, the following states voted to legalise recreational marijuana: