Super Tuesday Analysis - 7 Democrats, 2 Republicans

 

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DEMOCRATS

bernie.pngBernie Sanders

Unlike almost all the other Democratic candidates, Sanders is no Johnny-Come-Lately to marijuana law reform. As mayor of Burlington, Vermont in the 1980s, he advocated for decriminalization. Throughout his two decades in Congress, he consistently supported reforming not just marijuana laws, but all punitive drug laws and continues to do so as he runs for President.

Legalizing cannabis is a major part of the criminal justice reforms he has promoted. At the Democratic debate last Saturday, he stated “On Day One, we will change the federal Controlled Substances Act." He elaborated further by saying “What we're also going to do is to move to expunge the records of those people who were arrested for possession of marijuana. And I'll tell you what else we're going to do: We're going to provide help to African American, Latino and Native American communities to start businesses to sell legal marijuana rather than let a few corporations control the legalized marijuana market."

Bernie Sanders is definitely a friend of the cannabis community.

warren.jpgElizabeth Warren

Although not as long a supporter of marijuana law reform as Sanders, Elizabeth Warren is close on his heels. Noted for releasing detailed plans on everything from health care reform to climate change, Senator Warren has now released a detailed plan on how she would legalize cannabis, end the War on Drugs and how her administration would give a leg-up to communities harmed by the drug war in the legal cannabis industry.

la_times_story-page-001.jpgIn her plan  entitled A Just and Equitable Cannabis Industry Warren wrote “I support full marijuana legalization, and have also introduced and worked on a bipartisan basis to advance the STATES Act, a proposal that would at a minimum safeguard the ability of states, territories, and Tribal Nations, to make their own marijuana policies.”

Underscoring both her support for cannabis and criminal justice reform along with her distaste for the ultra-rich she stated “It’s not justice when we lock up kids caught with an ounce of pot, while hedge fund managers make millions off of the legal sale of marijuana. My administration will put an end to that broken system.”

steyer.jpgTom Steyer

As a billionaire, he is on the lower scale with only about $1.6 billion. I have met Tom Steyer at two California Democratic state party conventions. Although my conversations with him were brief, I came away with the impression that he knows the score and can be trusted to act on it.

Steyer supports not just the legalization of cannabis, but an end to the War on Drugs including the decriminalization of opioids. He has stated that “we must end the failed War on Drugs. Based on the flawed idea that incarceration is the answer to addiction, federal and state elected officials passed severe sentencing laws that encouraged incarceration for low-level drug offenses. Unfortunately, communities of color were and continue to be disproportionately affected and targeted by these laws, even when other ethnicities were committing the same drug crimes at the same rates.”

klobuchar.jpgAmy Klobuchar

Klobuchar has not always been that strong a supporter. In fact NORML had given her a D rating on their congressional report cards, but has raised it recently to a B.

This would be consistent with her statements at the last Democratic debate where she said "It is realistic to want to legalize marijuana, I want to do that too. I also think you need to look back at peoples' records, maybe you can't do it on Day One. You want to have a process to go through because there are too many people with things on their records that have stopped them from getting jobs.”

buttigieg.jpgPete Buttigieg

As a millennial, one might think Buttigieg would have always been a supporter of marijuana law reform. However, when he was mayor of South Bend, Indiana, he didn’t do much to soften the impact of laws criminalizing marijuana. In fact, African-Americans were more likely to be arrested for marijuana offenses at far higher rates then was found in most other areas of the county.

He had told the Des Moines Register that he supports legalizing medical and recreational cannabis. He feels that the way we enforce marijuana possession and other non-violent drug offenses is counter-productive whose costs far outweigh the benefits.

On his website he vows to “eliminate incarceration for drug possession, reduce sentences for other drug offenses and apply these reductions retroactively, and legalize marijuana and expunge past convictions.”

biden.jpgJoe Biden

Biden has a lot of baggage when it comes to any kind of criminal justice reform. As a drafter of numerous “tough-on-crime” bills during the Clinton administration, he helped write laws imposing mandatory minimums and the draconian and racially tinged 1994 Crime Bill. He is responsible to a significant degree why America has the highest incarceration rate of any country.

He still subscribes to the long-debunked gateway theory and continues to support including cannabis in the Schedule of Controlled Substances although lowering it from a Schedule One drug to a Schedule Two which would permit more research. He supports that stance by claiming more research is still needed.

His position has become far more nuanced. He has apologized for his former “tough-on-crime” efforts that led to such egregious racial disparities in drug law enforcement. Although he reluctantly supports allowing states to legalize cannabis, he does not support legalizing cannabis on the federal levels. He does support decriminalizing cannabis as well as automatically expunging prior marijuana law prohibition convictions for possession.

bloomberg.jpgMichael Bloomberg

On Super Tuesday, March 3, we will see if the almost one-half billion dollars Bloomberg has shoveled into his campaign for President will pay off. He has climbed to number two in some polls, so he may succeed in buying himself a chance to not only be one of the richest people in the world, but now also the most powerful person in the world.

However, it seems money (even $64 billion) doesn’t buy common sense as Bloomberg is arguably the worst of the Democratic candidates when it comes to cannabis and criminal justice law reform. His past is as bad as Biden’s although he only wreaked havoc on peoples lives in the city of New York when he was Mayor whereas Biden wreaked peoples lives on a national scale.

hemp_conf-page-001.jpgAlthough he did not originate the controversial stop and frisk program that targeted people of color for random and frequent police searches, he doubled down on it. He has now stated that the policy was mistaken, but a recording was recently discovered of him defending the program in a way which can charitably be describe as racially insensitive.

Although Bloomberg’s criminal justice reform plan will decriminalize possession and use of marijuana nationwide, commute any existing sentences and expunge any records, the Wall Street Journal described Bloomberg’s cannabis views as out of step with the rest of the Democratic field.

Although kind of disjointed, his statement made at the Democratic debate in South Carolina sums up his superannuated views and would be cause for significant concern if he becomes President.

"We should not make this a criminal thing if you have small amounts. For dealers, yes. But for the average person, no. And you should expunge the records of those that got caught up in it before. Number two: We're not going to take it away from the states that have already done it. But, number three, you should listen to the scientists and the doctors. They say go very slow. They haven't done enough research and the evidence so far is worrisome. Before we get our kids, particularly kids in their late teens, and boys even more than girls, where they may be damaging their brains. Until we know the science it's just nonsensical to push ahead, but the cat's out of the bag. So since states have it, you're not going to take it away. Decriminalize the possession."

REPUBLICANS

weld.jpgWilliam Weld

Even Mother Teresa would have great difficulty wresting the Republican nomination for President from Donald Trump, but a few brave politicos are trying. The most successful is William Weld, the former Governor of Massachusetts.

His quixotic quest to wrest the Republican nomination for president is the longest of long shots, but he did win 10% of the votes in New Hampshire’s Republican primary garnering one delegate and denying Trump a clean sweep of all the delegates coming to the Republican National Convention. It will be interesting to see how he fares on Super Tuesday.

Weld’s support for marijuana law reform may have played a role in that 10% figure, but probably not much. Weld's past contributions to the War on Drugs should give pause, but his position on cannabis has evolved with the times.

He was the US Attorney in Massachusetts during the Reagan administration where he was tasked with enforcing the War on Drugs. He obviously had a change of opinion as in 2016 he supported the ballot initiative that legalized recreational cannabis in Massachusetts. Judiciously leaving the Republican Party, he ran for the Vice-Presidency on the Libertarian ticket with former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. They both called for the repeal of federal cannabis prohibition.

He endorsed the STATES Act, calling the federal bill that will end federal prohibition his "favorite piece of legislation that is on the Hill right now." 

Most intriguingly and arguably making him even more cannabis positive then Bernie Sanders is that last year, he joined the board of directors for the cannabis investment firm Acreage Holdings, which has also welcomed aboard former Republican House Speaker John Boehner.

trump_free1.pngDonald Trump

As with many issues, it is hard to pin down exactly where Donald Trump stands on the issue of marijuana law reform. Although he expressed a willingness to sign reform legislation if passed by Congress, he recently added a signing statement to the federal omnibus spending bill reserving his right to ignore a congressionally approved protection for state medical marijuana laws. It should be noted that former Presidents Bush and Obama also added similar signing statements to spending bills.

His budget requests have also included a provision that blocks Washington, D.C. from spending any money to implement the initiative passed by Washington DC voters to legalize cannabis sales. He did sign the First Step Act passed by Congress last year which was a modest step forward in criminal justice reform.

Trump has never tweeted about marijuana and has kept his distance however, last August DC Examiner reporter Steven Nelson asked him about federally legalizing marijuana. Responding to the question with his characteristic repetitive phrasing, he stated “We’re going to see what’s going on. It’s a very big subject and right now we are allowing states to make that decision. A lot of states are making that decision, but we’re allowing states to make that decision.”

Sounds like he is supportive but holding one’s breath could be hazardous to your health.

Marc Lotter, director of strategic communications for the Trump 2020 campaign, was recently asked in an interview about President Trump’s position on changing federal marijuana laws. Affirming the administration’s policy that cannabis and other currently illegal drugs should remain illegal, he stated “I think what the president is looking at is looking at this from a standpoint of a parent of a young person to make sure that we keep our kids away from drugs, They need to be kept illegal. That is the federal policy.”

Lotter acknowledged that a growing number of states are moving to legalize cannabis, but reiterated “I think the president has been pretty clear on his views on marijuana at the federal level."

Well actually the president has not been very clear on federal marijuana policy.

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