Ever since Hillary Clinton clinched the Democratic Party's 2016 presidential nomination, pundits have been speculating about her running mate. But the only thing that's certain is that whomever she picks for vice president will have tremendous influence on important issues like marijuana reform. Here's where her rumored running mates stand on cannabis (based on the Los Angeles Times' short list).
1. Tim Kaine
The Virginia Senator and former Governor of the Old Dominion state is one of the frontrunners for the Clinton ticket. And that's bad news for marijuana reformers because Kaine received an 'F' in the grades given to each member of congress this year by the National Organization for Reforming Marijuana Laws (NORML). The grade reflects Kaine's staunch opposition to legalization.
While speaking at a Virginia high school last March, Kaine said that he wanted to change America's sentencing laws for marijuana offences, but he opposed repealing pot prohibition. "I wouldn't vote for a law at the federal or state level that would decriminalize marijuana," he said.
2. Elizabeth Warren
The Massachusetts senator is one of the most progressive VP options on the cannabis issue. That's why NORML gave her a 'B' for her efforts to reform America's marijuana laws. She's supported medical marijuana since 2012, when she told Boston's WTKK-FM, "It should be like any other prescription drug. That there's careful control over it."
And when The Boston Globe asked Warren if she would support the 2016 ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana use in Massachusetts, Warren said, "I'm open to it." She noted that there has been success in states that have passed similar reforms. But she wanted to study legal states more before committing to a decision.
She has also openly criticized the War on Drugs and the American judicial system. "A kid gets caught with a few ounces of pot and goes to jail, but a big bank breaks the law on laundering drug money or manipulating currency, and no one even gets arrested. The system is rigged," she said at a 2014 conference hosted by Netroots Nation.
So choosing Warren could lend some put some teeth in Clinton's promise to reform America's drug laws.
3. Tom Vilsack
A relatively unknown quantity among the prominent names on Clinton's shortlist is former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, who has been President Obama's Secretary of Agriculture since 2009. He hasn't said much about cannabis in the past, but he did make a pot joke during a chat with former President Bill Clinton in 2015 when discussing cash crops at an event hosted by the Clinton Foundation.
Vilsack was talking about a non-cannabis crop that could be worth $1-million per acre. "Now with the exception of the state of Colorado and a few other states that have legalized another product, there are not many commodities that you can plant an acre of and get a million bucks." As you can see in the clip below, Clinton nearly fell over chuckling and began joking about the controversy he would cause if he spoke at an event for cannabis growers.
Vilsack also heads an interagency task force created by President Obama in January 2016 to combat opioid abuse in America. So he'll likely offer more insight about cannabis in the near future, as politicians like Senator Warren have called on researchers to study cannabis as a potential solution to America's opioid epidemic. So far, Vilsack hasn't mentioned the dubious "gateway drug theory" while discussing opioids addiction, which is a positive sign.
4. Sherrod Brown
The Ohio senator received a 'D' in NORML's congressional grades because he doesn't want to take an active role in the fight for cannabis reform. Back in 2011, the activist group Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) asked Brown if he would introduce a bill in the senate to repeal marijuana prohibition. "Probably not," Brown said "I've got other priorities. Sorry."
Since then he has expressed support for medical marijuana. But he remains leery about recreational cannabis use. "I have significant concerns about it," Brown said in a conference call in July 2015, when Ohioans were preparing to vote on legalization via ballot measure. "It's a step that we should take with great caution."
His constituents seemed to agree: the 'No's' won the ballot question last November.
5. Cory Booker
The New Jersey Senator rivals Elizabeth Warren as the most outspoken marijuana reformer on Clinton's VP list. Booker scored a 'B' in NORML's congressional grades because he is an outspoken critic of the War on Drugs and a proponent of liberalizing cannabis research. During a 2013 Reddit AMA, then Newark Mayor Cory Booker harshly criticized America's policy on illegal drugs.
"The so called War on Drugs has not succeeded in making significant reductions in drug use, drug arrests or violence," Cory Booker wrote."We are pouring huge amounts of our public resources into this current effort that are bleeding our public treasury and unnecessarily undermining human potential."
During a senate hearing in June 2015, Booker tore into the prohibitionist rhetoric of Kevin Sabet - co-founder of the anti-cannabis group Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM). His combination of passion for the issue and poise as a speaker are impressive. Check it out.
6. Wild Cards
Unfortunately, not all VP candidates reportedly being vetted by the Clinton campaign have clear stances on marijuana. The unknowns right now are two members of Obama's cabinet and one former military commander: Julian Castro, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; Tom Perez, U.S. Secretary of Labor; and James G. Stavridis, a retired four-star Navy admiral and former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO
Banner image: Clinton speaking at the Brown & Black Presidential Forum in Des Moines, Iowa, January 11, 2016 (wikipedia.org/Gage Skidmore)