A Gallup poll at the end of 2015 found that a majority of Americans now believe marijuana should be legal. In 1969 only 12% of adults felt this way, but the number has been steadily rising year after year. Now, the support stands at 58%. As of this moment, 17 states have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of the drug, while nearly half of the states have legalized the drug to treat specific medical conditions.
With the presidential election looming, you might be wondering where the candidates stand on the issue. While there are some variations, every single one of the remaining candidates says they support the states’ rights to make the decision. It’s a bit of a historic shift. Here is a brief synopsis of each candidate’s position:
Ted Cruz (R)
In 2015 Senator Cruz said he was opposed to legalization, but he does believe states should have the right to establish their own marijuana policies. He told the Texas Tribune, “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 the state to follow different polices.”
Hillary Clinton (D)
The former Secretary of State says she supports rescheduling marijuana from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule II to allow for universities and the NIH to conduct research into medical uses. As far as the states go, Clinton says she would continue the Obama Administration’s policy to ease enforcement efforts in the states that have legalized the drug. She refers to these states as experiments that can help point the way to a national policy.
Donald Trump (R)
Mr. Trump says he supports legal access to medical marijuana. He has had several opinions in the past. In 1990 he stated that in order to win the drug war the country needed to legalize all illicit drugs to take the profit away from the drug czars. More recently he said he opposed legalizing the drug for recreational use, but has shifted a bit more and now says states should be able to set their own policies with regard to adult use.
Bernie Sanders (D)
Senator Sanders says it is an obscenity that we stigmatize so many young Americans with a criminal record for smoking marijuana. He wants to take the drug off of the federal list of controlled substances and let states decide if they want to make it legal and to tax it. He says, as president, he would instruct the Department of Justice to not interfere with states that have decriminalized the drug.
John Kasich (R)
In the past, Governor Kasich has strongly opposed any effort to legalize marijuana, but in a recent town hall meeting he said medical marijuana is something we should look at. While he calls marijuana a scourge in the country and plans to fight against legalization in his home state of Ohio, he says he would have to support the decisions of the citizens in the states that have voted to make the drug legal.
Regardless of who wins in November, any real change is still up to Congress. Up until now, bills aimed at legalizing marijuana have not even made it out of committee. Under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is still 100% illegal when it comes to the federal government. The only real change that has happened was through amendments that blocked the funding for the DOJ’s enforcement efforts in states that have voted for legalization.
The conflicts between federal and local laws are finding their way into the courtroom. Will future administrations push settle this once and for all? Only time will tell.