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Marijuana on the Midterms: Where Angus King (I-ME) Stands on Cannabis Legalization

As the 2018 primary season approaches, you may be curious about where Senator Angus King Jr. (I-ME) stands on cannabis legalization, particularly if you're a resident of the Pine Tree State, as the popular junior senator of Maine is up for re-election for a second term this fall.

Before entering public service, King was an attorney and entrepreneur, but he decided to run for governor of Maine in 1993. He was elected as an independent, abandoning his lifelong affiliation with the Democratic Party, and he served two terms from 1995 to 2003. During his tenure, King was the only United States governor to be unaffiliated with all existing political parties at the time.

Nearly a decade later, King went on to win the Pine Tree State's 2012 Senate election. He is one of the most moderate members of the Senate, and though he is registered as an Independent, he caucuses with the Democrats. Ironically, it is this centrist attitude and almost un-willingness to take a firm stance on certain issues, particularly cannabis legalization, that have some supporters worried about his chances for re-election in the 2018 primary.

However, even though he has yet to vote on major legislation regarding marijuana, he has taken steps to protect the progress cannabis legalization has gained over the years. He expressed support for Congress reviewing and amending existing sentencing laws for marijuana offenses in 2014, and he was a co-sponsor of the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act in 2015, though he has yet to re-affirm his support of the bill in its current form. 

Also, in December 2016, Angus King joined a bipartisan group of senators, led by Jeff Merkley (D-OR), in sending an official letter pressing the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), a key federal regulator, to provide clearer rules and guidance on banking services for businesses that deal with marijuana. It's a call to action for ensuring that companies operating in states that have legalized marijuana in some way have safe access to banking services, writing:

“A large number of professionals have been unable to access the financial system because they are doing business with marijuana growers and dispensaries...Locking lawyers, landlords, plumbers, electricians, security companies, and the like out of the nation's banking and finance systems serves no one's interest.”

However, while Senator King seems to be supportive of existing laws that allow marijuana, he has yet to come forth as an advocate for nation-wide legalization, with a spokesman saying in 2014:

“Senator King believes the decision to legalize marijuana on a federal level for recreational purposes is significant and must be thought through carefully and comprehensively...He is interested to see the effects of legalization in places like Colorado and Washington, as data emerges that will better inform the decision-making process on this issue.”

And just last year, when asked by Vice News about his state's residents' decision to legalize recreational cannabis, only said “They made the decision up there, so I'm not going to comment.”

Our Grade: C+

When it comes to cannabis, he has a seemingly indifferent stance; he can definitely do more as an advocate for cannabis legalization, particularly since his constituents clearly support it, but his call for protecting businesses involved with marijuana and the rights of states where the herb is legal are encouraging.


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