Know Your Candidates: Pot & the New Prez

How will America’s 45th President handle marijuana law reform? Check out the views of the current crop of candidates.


Hillary Clinton, former US senator (NY) and secretary of state

Subscribes to the “gateway” theory that pot use leads to harder-drug addiction. Clinton insists on more research before she’ll fully back medical marijuana—but she also believes that the states serve as “laboratories of democracy,” which means she’ll observe the situation in legal-pot states before crafting her drug policy.

Martin O’Malley, former governor (MD)

Signed bills in 2014 to decriminalize weed and legalize medical marijuana in his state—after initially opposing medical pot, calling its use “drug addiction.” It was a significant turnaround by a politician who has long supported the War on Drugs—and who declared, earlier that same year, that he was “not much in favor” of marijuana law reform.

Bernie Sanders, US senator (VT)

On Reddit in May, Sanders endorsed decrim and medical pot, though he remains frustratingly hesitant to go all-in for legalization. While Sanders was mayor of Burlington, his police force minimized pot arrests.


Jeb Bush, former governor (FL)

Opposes both medical and recreational use, but told his CPAC audience that states should have the right to legalize. Even so, in 2014, Bush advised Florida voters to defeat the state’s proposed medical marijuana measure.

Ben Carson, author/columnist

A groundbreaking Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon (now retired), Carson supports medical cannabis, though in limited application. Even so, he completely opposes recreational use, regarding it as a “hedonistic activity” and a “gateway drug.”

Chris Christie, governor (NJ)

Has actually pledged to undo all of the Obama administration’s (fairly mild) cannabis-law reforms. As New Jersey governor, Christie deliberately obstructed the implementation of a voter-approved medical marijuana program in the state.

Ted Cruz, US senator (TX)

Publicly reversed his anti-pot position last February at the influential Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Cruz now supports the decision by voters in Colorado and Washington State to legalize recreational use, despite his own personal disapproval of pot and his previous criticism of the Obama administration for not cracking down on commercial weed sales.

Carly Fiorina, former CEO, Hewlett-Packard

Stated in May that she would not enforce the federal ban on marijuana in states with legal herb, despite her own disagreement with pot use. (Fiorina turned down an opportunity to use medical cannabis when battling breast cancer.)

Lindsay Graham, US senator (SC)

Insists that cannabis law reform is “pretty far down my list of priorities.” Graham backed his state’s legalization of CBD oil, but voted against a 2015 Senate bill to increase military veterans’ access to medical cannabis. He also opposes the Justice Department’s decision not to prosecute state-legal pot providers.

Mike Huckabee, former governor (AR)

Firmly opposed to legalizing recreational pot, but does regard cannabis recommended by a doctor as a “different discussion.” Huckabee is also fond of citing biased and discredited anti-pot studies.

Bobby Jindal, governor (LA)

Signed two cannabis-related bills in June, one establishing a regulatory framework for medical marijuana and the other softening his state’s harsh pot laws. However, he says that legalizing recreational weed would be “a mistake.”

John Kasich, governor (OH)

Equates pot with heroin and calls it “a scourge.” “Totally opposed” to legalizing recreational use, but says he “probably would not” interfere with legal states if he became president. We have our doubts; Kasich pledges to “stomp drugs out of our country.”

George Pataki, former governor (NY)

Although he opposed medical cannabis as governor and continues to oppose legalization, Pataki has said that, as president, he would be “strongly inclined” to change federal law to ensure the protection of states that have legalized either medical or recreational use.

Rand Paul, US senator (KY)

Ardently supports cannabis law reform in DC. Paul fully endorses the right of states to legalize recreational and commercial use (for both marijuana and hemp). In June, he hosted an unprecedented private briefing for campaign donors at a Colorado cannabusiness summit; in July, he co-sponsored a Senate bill to improve access to banking services by legal marijuana businesses.

Marco Rubio, US senator (FL)

Supports the legalization of non-psychoactive CBD, but opposed the 2014 measure to legalize medical marijuana in his home state, which was narrowly defeated. Rubio also rejects any legalization of adult recreational use.

Rick Santorum, former US senator (PA)

Utterly opposed to legalization. Santorum supports federal prohibition over state law and seeks to maintain the War on Drugs with increased spending on enforcement and harsher penalties for offenders.

Donald Trump, businessman

Advocated the legalization of all drugs in 1990, but has been singing a different tune now that he’s running for president. In February, Trump told CPAC that he was against legalizing marijuana—“I think it’s bad, and I feel strongly about that”—although he continues to support medical pot, and also seems to grudgingly accept the right of states to legalize.


Jill Stein, physician

No surprises here: The good doctor supports full legalization.

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