Whoever Replaces Trump Will Probably Like Marijuana

Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The never-ending campaign mode that long ago swallowed American politics and turned elected officials into full-time development directors (their foundation’s goal this season: themselves) in search of the best billionaire to serve as their ATM has at least one benefit in the age of Trump: It’s campaign season!

People are planning for life after Trump, and so should you (provided there is life on earth, at all, after 2020. No promises!). And with a solid majority of Americans signaling time and again their preference for an America with legal weed, as POLITICO’s Carla Marinucci predicts, whomever succeeds Donald Trump and takes over the renovated White House will almost certainly be sympathetic to legalization.

Barring indictment by grand jury, a change in temperament and a preference for playing golf in Russia, or the end of civilization as we know it, Donald Trump will face some currently well-known Democrat in just slightly more than three years time in the 2020 election.

Unless Trump fires Jeff Sessions and replaces him with Nancy Botwin, his record on the issue will be the hottest of festering garbage.

Trump has yet to oversee any grand crackdown on cannabis, but by elevating Sessions to attorney general and bringing in other career prohibitionists like Tom Price to become health secretary, Trump has earned himself a place in the Harry Anslinger wing of human history. Just the briefest of footnotes, but he’s there, on the prohibitionists’ losing team.

This is normally where we name the likely successor and laud them for leading on this issue. So who’s it going to be? Elizabeth Warren? Cory Booker? Deval Patrick? Kamala Harris? Tulsi Gabbard? Bernie mf-ing Sanders? Who cares—all you need to know is that they’ll almost certainly be pro-weed.

Hear us out.

Politicians are cynical and they are craven (most of the time), but they are not stupid. They need money and they need votes, and marijuana has both to offer.

At the moment, though Sanders supported outright marijuana legalization during his campaign, the lawmaker to whom legalization advocates owe the most is Booker. The New Jersey senator’s introduction of ambitious marijuana legalization legislation in Congress is almost certainly purely symbolic—he’ll be lucky to get the honor of feeling Chuck Grassley and Dianne Feinstein bore holes in him with their over-the-bifocals glare during a committee hearing—and that’s the point.

Booker is a presumptive frontrunner for the 2020 nomination, and he’s mostly a center-left type of guy—a moderate Obama-type. And he’s staked out weed, years ahead of everyone else.

Drug policy reform is a fringe issue no longer. It’s a way to be “progressive” while managing to cozy up to big business (there are bigger and bigger firms entering marijuana every day, many of them with ties to Wall Street and Silicon Valley, corporate Democrats’ best friends) and millennials all at the same time.

Legalization—with its collateral impacts on criminal justice, race relations, economic opportunity and even the opiate crisis, it touches everything—may yet become a litmus test for Democrats. In this way, being lukewarm on the issue could become a liability.

Kamala Harris, the former career prosecutor and California attorney general who is seven months into her first term as a U.S. senator, has also been mentioned as a possible candidate in 2020. If she does run, she’ll have to explain away her tepid support for marijuana legalization.

While she’s come around to recognizing cannabis as a legitimate issue and a legitimate industry, it took her a long, long time—and there are spots on her record, like when she campaigned against legalization in 2010 and only after laughed off questions about drug policy reform in 2014.  

She also told a crowd last month that’s it’s “time to do the smart thing, the right thing, and finally decriminalize marijuana.” No! Legalize. Legalize marijuana.

With gaffes like this, it will take quite a bit for Harris to be able to say with a straight face that she’s leading on this issue. Fighting a duel to the death with Jeff Sessions would be a good start. (Provided she wins.)

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