The New Hampshire primaries on Feb. 9 made history for both the Democratic and Republican parties. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and billionaire business magnate Donald Trump - the two most progressive candidates on cannabis left standing in their respective parties - handily beat the competition.
Sanders is the only true progressive of the two, becoming the first pro-legalization candidate to win the Granite State primary and - most importantly - the first pro-legalization presidential candidate to win any primary. And he won handily, beating Hillary by more than 40,000 votes. While Bernie's not the first candidate to back legalization, the results in New Hampshire already make him the most successful.
Trump is relatively progressive, when you consider his main competition for the Republican nomination. Trump received a "C+" on cannabis from the Marijuana Policy Project while Senator Marco Rubio got a "D" and Senator Ted Cruz got a "C". Like Sanders, Donald Trump took New Hampshire by storm, besting the second place finisher (Ohio Governor John Kasich) by 50,000 votes.
Trump's position on cannabis is a far cry from former candidate Rand Paul's libertarian stance, but he is hardly a prohibitionist. He supports the medicinal use of marijuana, and while he is personally opposed to recreational use he thinks that individual states should have the right to decide the issue for themselves.
Sanders and Trump both see need for reform
Ironically, cannabis may be the only issue in which Sanders and Trump come close to agreeing, because both stand for change. Under President Sanders, the government would move toward ending the federal prohibition of cannabis as well as the War on Drugs. Under President Trump, more states would likely legalize and medical laws could be liberalized.
But in a broader sense, these candidates are more alike than not because they're shaking the foundations of America's political establishment. As CNN notes,
"Trump, a brash businessman and reality TV star who has never run for office, and Sanders, a self-declared democratic socialist, were both seen as long-shot outsiders when they launched their campaigns."
In the lead-up to New Hampshire, many commentators predicted a showdown between two party stalwarts with high name recognition. Following Barack Obama's reelection in 2012, Politico predicted that, "a more familiar political order is poised to reassert itself [in 2016]: the House of Clinton representing Democrats and the House of Bush atop the GOP."
As recently as last year, pundits were framing the 2016 election as a "battle of the dynasties." Currently it looks like Bush's house is crumbling. Clinton, meanwhile, is still strong despite her loss - FiveThirtyEight's analysis of recent polling data suggests that she could easily beat Sanders in eight of the next nine states - but after his robust showing in New Hampshire, she can't count Sanders out.
Whatever the ultimate result, we do know that Trump and Sanders are both shaking the foundations of the decades-long War on Drugs. This is particularly true of Sanders. Even if he doesn't ultimately beat Clinton he has arguably brought each party's candidates closer to the growing majority of Americans who favor liberalizing America's laws on cannabis.