As the Congressional midterm elections approach this fall, you could be wondering where Sen. Joseph “Joe” Manchin (D-WV) stands on cannabis legalization. As one of the most moderate members of his caucus, Manchin often sides with conservatives on hot-button issues that liberal members of his party usually support, like reproductive rights and gun control, and cannabis legalization, which Manchin opposes, is no exception.
Manchin was involved in several family-owned businesses before entering politics, and he served as the governor of West Virginia and as the West Virginia Secretary of State before winning a seat in the United States Senate in a 2010 special election. Manchin served as, and. Manchin was re-elected for a full term in 2012 and seeks to keep his seat through a Democratic primary and general election this fall in a “red state” that offered Donald Trump his largest margin of victory in the 2016 presidential race.
When it comes to cannabis legalization, the West Virginia native has long been against changing the criminal status of the herb, but earlier this year, Manchin provided a voice vote on the Senate Appropriations Committee for a spending amendment that prevents federal intervention in state medical marijuana programs. Also, Manchin said in November of 2012 that it should ultimately be up to doctors to make decisions about using cannabis to treat a patient's ailment, saying "I would lean more to listen to the doctors - the professionals who are responsible for our health."
Manchin has always faced criticism for his staunch stance against cannabis legalization from his most liberal constituents (at a town hall event this past April, he was booed for again suggesting cannabis is a gateway drug), but in March of 2017 he reaffirmed his position, saying to STAT:
“I go to the treatment centers. I talk to the addicts. I always ask, 'How did you get started?' Most told me they started out with recreational marijuana. Legalizing recreational marijuana is something I have not been able to accept or support. What about medical marijuana? What about commercial cannabis? These are things I don’t know much about. But I’m interested in learning and finding out more. That’s what I’m doing now.”
Our Grade: D+
The only reason Manchin's grade isn't lower, given his long-standing stance opposing cannabis legalization, is that he has acted to protect medical marijuana programs to continue unhindered and he has expressed a willingness to learn more about the effectiveness of cannabis-based medicines.