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Cannabis 2020: Here's where presidential candidates stand on marijuana

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WASHINGTON (CIRCA) — As the 2020 presidential election gets underway, you may be wondering which candidates are for or against marijuana legislation. So, we at Circa dove into candidates' Twitter history and voting history to see where they stand—and where they have previously stood—on cannabis.

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J.

Current senator from New Jersey (2013-present)
Former mayor of Newark, New Jersey (2006-2013)

Cory Booker has been the chief architect or a cosigner of a multitude of cannabis-related bills in the U.S. Senate, many of which focus on criminal justice reform. He has been named one of "The Five Best U.S. Senators on Marijuana Policy" by Forbes and has an A+ grade from cannabis advocacy group NORML.

As far back as 2012, Booker was publicly in support of medical marijuana. In a Reddit AMA in 2012, Booker said, "Medical marijuana. It should be available and legal... why is marijuana singled out and denied to sick people?" Booker remains one of the few senators from a state without a legal recreational cannabis market to actively support and even introduce cannabis legislation.

Cory Booker Reddit AMA 2012 Marijuana
Cory Booker explains his stance on legalizing marijuana in 2012. (Reddit screenshot)

His most recent bill — the Marijuana Justice Act — had six cosigners including Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and fellow presidential candidates Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. He also signed on as a cosponsor of Democratic Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley's SAFE Banking Act of 2017. Neither passed, but both were considered important steps toward federal cannabis legislation.

Booker has not always been pro-recreational cannabis, however. In that same Reddit AMA he conducted as mayor of Newark in 2012, Booker made sure to draw the line. "To be clear," he said, "non-medicinal use of the drug is unhealthy for those who use it, and for society."

New Jersey has legal medical marijuana, but not recreational marijuana.

Secretary Julián Castro, D-Texas

Former secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) (2014-2017)
Former mayor of San Antonio (2009-2014)

Castro was HUD secretary in 2014 when the Obama administration loosened restrictions on cannabis possession by individuals receiving HUD subsidies. Before that point, HUD policy required mandatory evictions for anyone found with marijuana. He hasn't been incredibly vocal about cannabis, however, neither negatively nor positively. The most vocal Castro has been about cannabis was in 2017, when he posted on Facebook (below) that the White House's threat to start cracking down on legal states would be "a mistake."

Cannabis is not legal in Texas, neither recreationally nor medically.

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.

Current senator from California (2017-present)
Former attorney general of California (2011-2017)
Former district attorney of San Francisco (2004-2011)

Sen. Kamala Harris wrote in her 2019 autobiography that legalizing marijuana is part of "dismantling the failed war on drugs." She has, in more recent years, frequently signed on to cannabis legislation proposed by her Senate colleagues, at times working closely with Booker. She has also said that she supports the expungement of nonviolent marijuana offenses—something included in the 2018 Marijuana Justice Act, which she cosponsored. She has an A grade from NORML.

But before coming to Congress, Harris' stance on marijuana was much more hard-line. When asked about California legalizing marijuana by a reporter during her attorney general re-election campaign in 2014, Harris famously laughed.

YouTube

California has legalized both medical and recreational marijuana.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.

Current senator from New York (2009-present)
Former U.S. representative from New York's 20th District (2007-2009)

Gillibrand was a cosponsor of many pieces of pro-cannabis legislation, often with Booker, including the Marijuana Justice Act in 2017. And when then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions repealed the Cole Memo, Gillibrand took to Twitter to condemn the move (below).

But as a U.S. representative, Gillibrand did not decide to cosponsor the Act to Remove Federal Penalties for the Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults, which was introduced by Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass.

She has received an A grade from NORML.

Recreational cannabis is not legal in her state, New York, but current Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he wants it legalized soon.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.

Current senator from Minnesota (2007-Present)
Former county attorney of Hennepin County (1999-2007)

She has a B grade from cannabis advocacy organization NORML for her failure to ever co-sponsor legislation that would deschedule marijuana on a federal level.

She did not sponsor Cory Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act of 2017, which many of her 2020 counterparts — including Senators Warren, Gillibrand and Harris — did sponsor.

What Klobuchar has co-sponsored are a series of bills that remove hemp-based CBD from the controlled substances act or create a path for research for CBD-based medicine. She also co-sponsored the STATES act, a bipartisan bill introduced by Elizabeth Warren, which would allow states to set their own marijuana regulations and not be at odds with the federal government.

Klobuchar has never tweeted the word cannabis or marijuana.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

Current senator from Massachusetts (2013-present)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren is one of Forbes' top five senators for marijuana. But she hasn't always been that way. In 2013, she made a dig at a Massachusetts state senator, saying "He has a 100 percent ranking from the gun lobby and he's for the legalization of marijuana. He wants us armed and stoned.”

By 2015, however, Warren was an active member of the unofficial cananbis club in the Senate, joining with Sens. Booker, Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Gillibrand, among others, to petition for better medical marijuana research. More recently, she was one of the initial cosponsors of the bipartisan and bicameral (it was proposed in the House and the Senate) STATES Act, a bill designed to give added protection to states that have legalized marijuana.

Warren has received an A grade from NORML.

Recreational cannabis is legal in Massachusetts.

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Gov. Bill Weld, R-Mass.

Former governor of Massachusetts (1991-1997)
Former Libertarian vice presidential candidate (2016)
Former U.S. assistant attorney general for Criminal Division (1986-1988, under President Ronald Reagan)
Former U.S. attorney for Massachusetts (1981-1986)

Bill Weld, former governor of Massachusetts and a Republican-turned-Libertarian, has long supported cannabis legislation. He backed the 2016 bill in Massachusetts that legalized recreational marijuana in the state, and is on the board of Canadian-based cannabis corporation Acerage Holdings, along with former House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

He told CNBC that he has been pro-medical marijuana since 1992, and came around to full legalization when Massachusetts was considering it in 2016.

The former Republican — and now 2020 Republican presidential primary candidate — isn't shy about saying the GOP should support descheduling marijuana. In the same CNBC interview, he said it would be great politics for President Donald Trump to deschedule cannabis at a national level and leave it to the states, because states' rights play well with the Republican Party.

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