As we start to contemplate the 2018 United States congressional primary season, you may be wondering where Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) stands on cannabis legalization. Tester is the only incumbent Democrat in Montana's congressional delegation who is up for re-election this November.
Before entering public service, Senator Tester taught music at an elementary school and worked for his family's farm and custom butcher shop, even after he lost the three middle fingers of his left hand in a meat-grinder accident when he was 9 years old. Tester is a third-generation Montana farmer, and he and his wife continue to run the family farm (which grows organic alfalfa, barley, buckwheat, lentils, millet, peas, and wheat, and houses a custom butcher shop) that his grandfather homesteaded in 1916. He even brings his own cuts of meat with him while he's in Washington D.C.
Tester was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006, largely on the basis of his pro-agricultural platform and background. Many activists hope Montana's senior senator will use his agricultural knowledge to frame cannabis legalization as a farming and state's rights issue since medical marijuana is now legal in Big Sky Country.
However, Senator Tester has yet to get on board with supporting full-fledged cannabis legalization. His actions support his words, as Tester has supported the rights of states where residents have chosen to legalize the herb. He was a co-sponsor of Senate Bill 134 (Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015) and voted for several pro-cannabis Amendments: Merkley Amendment (2015), Mikulski Amendment (2015), Daines/Merkley Amendment (2015), Merkley Amendment (2016), Mikulski Amendment (2016), and Daines/Merkley Amendment (2016). Tester also spoke out against the recent decision of Attorney General Jeff Sessions' Department of Justice reversing Obama-era cannabis regulations, saying:
“I don’t know how the Department of Justice is gonna move forward with this, I think state’s rights do need to be respected in this situation and there’s plenty of argument out there that says that alcohol is far worse than marijuana and I will tell you that’s hard to debate. But the truth is that I think the Montana voters were right when they passed the medical marijuana component. As far as over full legalization, I’m not too crazy about that.”
Our Grade: B
Even though he doesn't want to see the recreational use of cannabis become the norm, he does stand up for the decisions made by his constituents in regards to medical marijuana and the farming of hemp.