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Presidential Candidates for 2024 & Where They Stand on Cannabis

Presidential Candidates for 2024 & Where They Stand on Cannabis

70% of Americans agree that legalizing cannabis is a good idea. Today we take a look at where the 2024 presidential candidates stand on legalizing cannabis and views on marijuana reform.
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70% of Americans say YES to Legal Cannabis

If there’s one thing we can all agree on as Americans, it’s that we want cannabis legalized. I mean seriously, 70% of Americans support cannabis legalization. But who among the current 2024 presidential candidates is the most likely to help us achieve our goal?

In my opinion, the choice is clear. Keep reading to find out why.

Marijuana reform report card 

CandidateConvictionsScheduleRegulationOur Grade 
Marianne Williamson (D)Expunge all Federal drug convictions Completely deschedule Full, legal regulation A+
Joe Biden (D)Pardoned some Federal marijuana convictionsRecommended  reschedule to Schedule IIIState-level regulation C-
Cornel West (I)End mass incarcerationUnclearUnclearC+
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (I)Not addressed Unclear Federally legalize D
Donald Trump (R)Double down on the War on Drugs (including the death penalty for cartel members)Maintain Schedule I Diminished protections for states regulating marijuana F
Ron Desantis (R)Will not decriminalize Maintain Schedule IState-level regulationF

A more in-depth look at cannabis reform stances 

Democratic candidates

Marianne Williamson

In my very humble opinion, Marianne is the clear choice on this (and every) issue. Her entire policy platform is centered around identifying and healing the root causes of the problems that plague our country. A Williamson administration seeks to bring an end to the War on Drugs and the overdose crisis through four core pillars: ending prohibition, harm reduction, addiction treatment and recovery, and giving Americans better lives overall. 

Step one is legalizing cannabis and psilocybin (and supporting research into their uses). Next is building up harm reduction and addiction treatment infrastructure before decriminalizing other drugs, ultimately building a framework for full, legal regulation. Marianne understands that addiction is a symptom of a deeper despair felt across our nation. For this reason, an Economic Bill of Rights is integral to a solution that addresses the root of the issue, not just the symptoms. 

Marianne’s drug policy is by far the best option available to us. Most media outlets would have you believe Marianne doesn’t even exist, or that her campaign is a long shot. In reality, she has the most thorough policy platform of any candidate in the race and she continues to rise in the polls. I believe in voting for what we deserve, not what we’re told we can reasonably expect. So believe me when I say, Marianne is the only candidate I can get behind. 

Joe Biden 

It’s hard to decide what’s more insulting: the fact that the DNC has all but decided that Biden is our only option for the presidential nomination, or his campaign website features absolutely zero information on his policy platform (literally, just SHOP and DONATE). That said, I think it best we just take a look at his track record to draw a conclusion here. 

Back in October 2022, Biden issued pardons for those convicted of federal marijuana charges (although there were tight restrictions on who was eligible). Despite noting the discrimination people with Federal convictions face, he failed to mention that pardoned convictions remain on record–only expungement completely removes them. 

He also asked for cannabis to be rescheduled from Schedule I to Schedule III. While rescheduling cannabis would certainly improve accessibility, it fails to rectify the rampant racial injustices brought about as a result of classifying marijuana as a controlled substance. Decriminalization is the only way to truly ensure these injustices do not continue, and Biden’s failure to follow through on his promise to do so is telling. 

Independent candidates

Cornel West 

Cornel West does not strike me as an electable candidate. Most Americans know the likelihood of an independent candidate actually winning a major election like the presidency is already slim to none. Add in the fact that West has already jumped from two smaller parties before deciding to run as an independent comes across as flaky at best. 

That said, I do have to give West props for calling out Biden for his integral role in sponsoring legislation in the 90’s that pumped money into prisons and the police, and undoubtedly contributed to mass incarceration. This knowledge makes Biden’s weak actions to rectify these injustices all the more troubling. 

According to his campaign platform, West wants to end the war on drugs, end mass incarceration, and abolish poverty and homelessness. While I agree that we need to do all of these things, West doesn’t go into really any detail on what specific steps he’ll take to achieve these lofty goals. .

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. 

Although he started out making a bid for the Democratic nomination, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has made the decision to run as an Independent. Despite this, he’s still doing concerningly well in the polls. Matched up against Trump and Biden, Kennedy was able to pull 22% from both sides of the aisle. 

Kennedy’s plan is to federally legalize and decriminalize marijuana, but leave regulation up to the states. A federal tax on cannabis sales would fund addiction recovery programs. The recovery centers would center on people learning organic farming and reconnecting with nature. 

On top of failing to address the root cause of addiction, Kennedy doesn’t even address how racial injustices play into this. Failure to address race is more than an oversight. Kennedy’s close ties with alt-right Christian nationalist extremists makes any somewhat passable policy platform reek of deceit. 

Republican candidates

Donald Trump

Why we are still considering this man as a legitimate candidate is beyond me, considering his multiple criminal indictments and convictions since leaving office in 2020 (and you know, literally everything else). Nevertheless, Trump is still polling far higher than any of the other Republican primary candidates, so I am forced out of a commitment to fair and honest election coverage to consider his stance. 

It should come as no surprise that Trump doesn’t have much of a stance at all. He’s all over the place with what he says, and there’s truly no telling how things would play out were he to regain office. He rambles on about studies that claim medical marijuana is doing more harm than good, even going so far as to suggest mass shootings are caused by genetically engineered weed. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to see the source for that one. 

At this point, I think we all know Trump’s words aren’t something you can rely on, so let’s take a look at what he’s actually done. During the 2016 presidential race, Trump claimed support for the states’ rights to regulate marijuana as they see fit. Once in office, the actions of his administration told a different story. Not only did Trump uphold federal marijuana prohibition, but actually chipped away at states’ rights by removing protections for state medical marijuana laws. 

Ron DeSantis 

The next runner up among the Republicans poses the risk of being even more catastrophic than Trump. Ron DeSantis decided that wreaking havoc on the good people of Florida for the past four years wasn’t enough. The natural next step was to put in his bid for the presidential nomination, so he could terrorize the rest of us too. His campaign centers around “restoring” the largest military in the world by far, protecting the fossil fuel industry, and actively working against long overdue climate actions. 

He is vehemently opposed to legalizing recreational marijuana, having harped many times about that “disgusting” odor we all know and love. Despite acknowledging that cannabis can have medicinal benefits, he has clearly stated that even decriminalization is not on the table were he to become president. 

His reasoning? It impedes our “workforce readiness” which suggests to me that his ideals are in line with the status quo–we the people are simply tools put here to make the elite even richer. Plus, I know many functional stoners who would argue that a good wake & bake can boost your mood and creativity to promote a productive, harmonious day’s work. 

Frequently asked questions 

What are primary elections? 

Political parties use primary elections to determine who their presidential nominee will be. They’re hosted on the state-level and it’s up to the state’s discretion how and when primary elections take place. Some states even place the responsibility on the political parties themselves to host their own primary elections. 

When do 2024 primaries start? 

Presidential primary election season begins in February 2024 for early states. As they vary by state, check 2024 State Primary Election Dates by looking for your state on this list. 

How do I register to vote?

To vote in a primary election, you’ll have to be registered to vote in your state. Go to vote.gov to find out when and how to register.

Weed is legal in my state, so why should I care?

If you’re living in one of the states where marijuana is already legal, it may not feel like it matters much where a candidate stands on this issue. In most states where marijuana has been legalized, there are still people in prison due to marijuana convictions. Even those who have been released may still have those convictions on their record, which can lead to discrimination in housing and employment. A candidate’s stance on cannabis reform should take these people’s lives into consideration, and make it a point to set right the injustices they’ve faced. 

What is the war on drugs?

The War on Drugs began in 1970 when Richard Nixon signed the Controlled Substances Act into effect. Drugs were categorized into one of five “schedules.” Despite a total lack of evidence, marijuana was classified as Schedule I, considered to be the drugs with the highest potential for addiction and no recognized medical uses. A few years later, Nixon created the Drug Enforcement Agency to enforce his policies. 

In the 80s, Nixon passed the torch to Ronald Reagan, who introduced mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses. This forced judges all across the nation to incarcerate people simply for using drugs. Not only this, but the penalties for drugs commonly used by people of color were literally a hundred times stronger than those for drugs used by white people. 

These policies paved the way for mass incarceration of communities of color. Even once they’re released, those with drug convictions can legally be discriminated against when seeking employment, housing, and even food stamps. Instead of making our country healthier and safer (as was promised), the War on Drugs has simply created even more misery. 

Conclusion

There’s no doubt that the 2024 presidential election will be a pivotal moment in our nation’s history. Who you choose to vote for is an important decision that should not be made lightly. While there are many issues to consider, I know that federal marijuana reform is an important one for many of us. Cannabis reform is a critical component required to heal our nation. It’s about so much more than the plant–cannabis reform is about rectifying racial injustices, improving health care, and giving all Americans a better quality of life. My advice to you? Vote for the future you think we deserve. 

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