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Marijuana on the Midterms: Where Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) Stands on Cannabis Legalization

The 2018 Congressional primary season is here, and if you follow politics, you're no doubt wondering where Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) stands on cannabis legalization. North Dakota's junior senator is the sole Democrat holding a state-wide office in North Dakota, and she understands that her constituents typically lean conservative, particularly on hot-button issues like marijuana legalization, as she seeks re-election this fall.

Before entering public service, not counting her internships for the U.S. Congress in 1976 and the state legislature in 1977, Mary Kathryn "Heidi" Heitkamp was a lawyer for the United States Environmental Protection Agency and then for North Dakota State Tax Commissioner's office. By 1989, however, she was elected State Tax Commissioner, serving until 1993, when she was chosen by voters to serve as the 28th North Dakota Attorney General. She held that office until 2001, earning a reputation for successfully battling drug dealers, sexual predators, and even the federal government when it tried to take private land from North Dakota farmers.

She is considered among the most moderate and conservative Democrats in the Senate and she has a much warmer relationship with the current administration than she did with the previous one.

However, when it comes to Senator Heitkamp's stance on cannabis legalization, her silence on the issue makes it clear she's no champion for the movement to legalize the herb. She has yet to vote on any major pieces of legislation on marijuana, she isn't a co-sponsor of any pro-cannabis bills, and she recently said she supports increasing security along the border with Mexico to help keep marijuana traffickers out of the country.

Yet, she has shown glimpses of support for protecting the rights of those areas that allow legal cannabis for either medical or recreational purposes. When the District of Columbia decriminalized the possession of small amounts of pot Senator Heitkamp expressed her view that her role in the matter is very limited, saying “the District is entitled to a whole lot of self-determination,” and to “reverse what a city would do,” would cause constitutional problems.

Our Grade: C-

She has offered neither strong support nor opposition to the legalization of cannabis in her home state or throughout the country, but her seeming willingness to back the decisions of voters on the issue is the only reason her grade isn't lower.


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