It’s no secret that presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump cannot stomach one another; they seemingly disagree on most everything. Before the last two presidential debates, they didn’t even shake hands. But even in this contentious election cycle, there’s one thing these two (or four, if we’re including the major third-parties) agree on…
You have a right to marijuana for medical or recreational purposes.
Where a president stands on marijuana means a lot, at least for those partaking in or profiting from the marijuana industry. Today, the federal government still classifies marijuana as a controlled substance, the same category as heroin. Yet four states—Alaska Colorado, Oregon, Washington—allow recreational marijuana, a status directly in conflict with federal law.
Luckily for those states, President Barack Obama’s administration has mostly turned a blind eye. The nation’s next president, however, isn’t obligated to follow suit. With the snap of presidential fingers, the new elect theoretically could demand federal authorities raid growers and dispensaries.
In addition to the federal situation, citizens in California, Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada will go to the polls come Nov. 8 to choose whether to legalize recreational marijuana in those states. And voters in Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota are being asked to permit medical marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation. Altogether, 25 states already permit the medical use of marijuana. (Here are the texts of all the measures.) So for those invested in marijuana, this a particularly important vote.
Marijuana support and opposition
Current polls show that a majority of Americans support ending marijuana prohibition. A Gallup poll released Oct. 21 showed that 58 percent of those surveyed supported legalizing marijuana in some degree. That’s up from 48 percent between 2010-2012. However, neither major party candidate—Trump and Clinton—has highlighted marijuana as a key component of their campaigns.
To be sure, marijuana is a multi-billion-dollar business with an estimated worth of $7.1 billion, so naturally big companies want in. Thus far, Microsoft is one of the marquee names to enter the arena, marketing software to track marijuana from “seed to sale.” There are also lesser known companies like Hound Labs in Oakland, California. That organization wants to offer a so-called roadside breathylizer for marijuana.
To summarize the general arguments swirling around marijuana, looking to the individual state battles can be illuminating. California is the nation’s biggest marijuana market to already legalize medical use. This election season, more than a dozen police associations in the state are urging voters to go against Proposition 64, a proposal for legalizing recreational use. On the flip side, the top financial backer of the measure is Sean Parker, the Napster founder and a former president of Facebook. He’s helped raise $8.5 million for the cause.
Those in favor argue Prop 64 would reduce California’s overcrowded prisons and jails, give Californians freedom of choice, and provide tax money for, in the words of California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, “important programs such as public safety.”
In contrast, the California Association of Highway Patrolmen, representing some 7,900 CHP officers, says legalizing marijuana will cause more traffic deaths. They point to things like a recent Colorado study suggesting the same conclusion:
Recent numbers out of Colorado show that marijuana related traffic deaths have increased almost 50 percent since 2013 which is exactly why we strongly oppose Prop 64. For the proponents of Prop 64 to say that they worked with law enforcement to craft this measure is misleading and when you see Colorado law enforcement asking for a timeout to deal with the problems they are facing it should give us all pause on this important issue. We will continue to educate media, local and state leaders, but most importantly we tell California voters that Prop 64 did NOT get it right.
Organizations on both sides of these fights nationwide have talking points spanning health, addiction, intoxicated driving, crime, blight, justice, taxation—you name it. Despite the interest, the two main party candidates haven’t said very much on the topic no matter how it’s presented.
The Democratic candidate said in August she supports reclassifying marijuana from a Schedule 1 to a Schedule 2 drug, which would remove research barriers for medical use. She said it was up to the states to decide their own marijuana laws without federal intervention.
“I think what the states are doing right now needs to be supported, and I absolutely support all the states that are moving toward medical marijuana, moving toward—absolutely—legalizing it for recreational use,” Clinton said on Jimmy Kimmel Live in March. “What I’ve said is let’s take it off the what’s called Schedule I and put it on a lower schedule so that we can actually do research about it. There’s some great evidence about what marijuana can do for people who are in cancer treatment, who have other kind of chronic diseases, who are suffering from intense pain. There’s great, great anecdotal evidence but I want us to start doing the research.”
Clinton’s campaign website backs up those words.
The Republican candidate said in 1990 that he favored legalization of all drugs. Speaking of the war on drugs at the time, he said, “You have to legalize drugs to win that war.”
Over time, Trump’s thinking has apparently changed. In October 2015, he was quoted in the Washington Post as saying: “In terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state-by-state.” But he told the O’Reilly Factor last February that “dealers” were going to “load up” on marijuana and sell it around the country if marijuana was legalized in Colorado. He told O’Reilly that he favored medical marijuana but not the recreational use of it.
“I would really want to think about that one, Bill. Because in some ways I think it’s good and in other ways it’s bad. I do want to see what the medical effects are,” he said. “I have to see what the medical effects are and, by the way—medical marijuana, medical? I’m in favor of it a 100 percent. But what you are talking about, perhaps not. It’s causing a lot of problems out there.”
Trump’s campaign website is silent on the issue.
Given the need to make waves in order to increase the odds of election success, both third-party candidates have been happy to discuss the subject of marijuana. Green Party candidate Jill Stein even supports nationwide medical and recreational use as part of her platform.
“Make no mistake, ending marijuana prohibition would be a huge win for freedom and social justice, and a major step towards the just, Green future we deserve,” she said in her campaign literature. “As President, one of my first actions would be to order the DEA and the Justice Department to cease and desist all attempts to harass or prosecute medical marijuana clinics or other legitimate marijuana-related businesses that are operating under state laws.”
Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson, the former Republican governor of New Mexico, was once the CEO of Cannabis Sativa, a marijuana firm. So naturally, he favors the legalization of marijuana for both recreational and medical uses and would support federal research. His campaign website said that the Founding Fathers would be shocked “to learn that the government has decided it is appropriate to tell adults what they can put in their bodies—and even put them in jail for using marijuana, while allowing those same adults to consume alcohol and encouraging the medical profession to pump out addictive, deadly painkillers at will.”
As with all aspects of the coming election, marijuana usage has become a passionate debate. The only certainty at the moment is that more is coming, and future presidential candidates likely won’t have the option to remain mum.