Here's Where The Remaining Presidential Candidates Stand On Marijuana

With Florida Senator Marco Rubio's exit from the Republican presidential race on Mar. 15, all of the remaining candidates are in favor of reforming America's marijuana laws. But not every candidate is as progressive as the others. In alphabetical order, here's where each one stands (and their grades from the Marijuana Policy Project).

Hillary Clinton, B

The former secretary of state is the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, but she trails her sole rival - Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders - on the marijuana issue.

During an interview with Joe Mathieu of WBZ on Jan. 25, Clinton reaffirmed the three planks of her position on cannabis reform: she promises to respect each state's right to legalize, monitor the situation in those states and develop federal policy accordingly, and move cannabis from a Schedule I to a Schedule II drug so it's medical benefits and other health effects can be researched thoroughly.

Commentators like Ben Adlin of Leafly feel underwhelmed by Clinton's "safe, mealy-mouthed responses about an issue on the verge of massive change." Patrick Nightingale of Pittsburgh NORML told Civilized: "Even many Republicans are more progressive than Clinton on this issue... It's as if the Clinton campaign is trying to say the least they possibly can say and still pretend that they support cannabis reform."

So cannabis is one issue where Clinton seems more interested in blending in with the crowd than standing out.

Ted Cruz, C

Depending on who you ask, Ted Cruz has either "evolved" or "flip-flopped" on the cannabis issue. In his keynote address for the Texas Public Policy Foundation in January 2014, he criticized President Obama for not enforcing federal law in Colorado. A year alter, Cruz shifted toward Obama's stance. In an interview with The Texas Tribune published on Mar. 24, 2015, Cruz said:

"I don't support drug legalization, but I do support the Constitution. I think individual states can choose to adopt it. So if Texas had it on the ballot, I'd vote against it, but I respect the authority of states to follow different policies."

The following month, he elaborated on his stance in an interview with conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt:

"There have been lots of theoretical arguments for a long time about the consequences of legalizing marijuana. We can now see. If those states suddenly see a dramatic increase in teen drug use, if they see a dramatic increase in crime, if they see significant harmful effects coming from it, I suspect other states are going to be far less eager to walk down that road."

So it's up to legal states to prove Cruz wrong by becoming exemplars instead of cautionary tales.

John Kasich, C-

In April 2015, the Ohio governor told Hugh Hewitt that he's "totally opposed" to legalizing recreational marijuana use. He added, "if I happened to be president, I would lead a significant campaign down at the grassroots level to stomp these drugs out of our country."

He used to oppose medical marijuana as well. But in February, he said he would consider legalizing it nationwide. However, Kasich didn't give any specifics on the issue. And he doesn't seem keen on discussing marijuana at all - especially his own use. At a rally in Michigan on Mar. 8, Kasich gave a heated response when asked whether he'd ever smoked smoked marijuana:

"What is the relevance of what I might have done 30 years ago? I mean this is not what matters when we pick a president. What really matters is 'Is this somebody that can create jobs? Is this somebody that knows how to command the military, conduct foreign policy. I think to some degree the course of running for president is a series of 'gotcha questions.'"

Someone might want to tell him about the new jobs created by the marijuana industry.

Bernie Sanders, A

The Vermont senator is far ahead of the pack when it comes to legalization. Bernie has called for an end to the War on Drugs, decried the racial injustice behind cannabis prohibition, and introduced a Senate bill that would repeal federal prohibition and allow states to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol and tobacco.

He also sees the war on drugs as part of the larger problems with American society:

"We have a criminal justice system that is broken," Sanders said during the Jan. 17 debate. "Who in America is satisfied that we have more people in jail than any country on earth, including China - disproportionately African-American and Latino? Who is satisfied that 51 percent of African-American young people are either unemployed or under-employed? Who is satisfied that millions of people have police records for possessing marijuana when the CEOs of Wall Street companies who destroyed our economy have no police records? We need to take a very hard look at our criminal justice system, investing in jobs and education - not in jails and incarceration."

5. Donald Trump, C+

The billionaire business magnate is arguably backward on minority groups and many other issues. But The Donald supports each state's right to legalize cannabis, and he's in favor of medical marijuana:

"I think it certainly has to be... a state decision," he told WWJ Newsradio 950 on Mar. 8. "There seems to be certain health problems with it, and that would be certainly bothersome. I do like it... from a medical standpoint — it does do pretty good things. But from the other standpoint, I think that should be up to the states. Certainly, from a medical standpoint, a lot of people are liking it."

But will he stick with that position? His views on marijuana have already changed drastically since April 1990, when his stance was more progressive than anyone running in 2016. "We're losing badly the war on drugs," Trump told a crowd at a luncheon held by The Miami Herald. "You have to legalize drugs to win that war. You have to take the profit away from these drug czars."

So unlike most other candidates on this list, Trump has actually become more conservative over the years.

h/t Forbes, The Atlantic, CBS


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