By Samantha Wahl
As the primaries approach and the once 20-person pool of Democrats narrows, we weigh the importance of pressing political issues to each of the 2020 nominees. Where do these candidates stand on cannabis laws? Where have they stood in the past? The Emerald is staying up to date on the contenders’ cannabis policy histories, and we’ve mapped out some of the most influential frontrunners.
For starters, we’re looking at East Coast Senators Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren. Both Sen. Booker, D-NJ, and Sen. Warren, D-MA, oppose the prohibition of cannabis in 2019, much like most of their fellow contenders. But their views on these issues haven’t always been as unified.
Sen. Booker is consistent in his support for pro-cannabis policies, and has been since his second term as Mayor of Newark, NJ.
Booker told Huffington Post in 2012, “What I’ve seen in Newark is a massive trap in this drug war, it’s a trap for taxpayers, communities and towns. We’re not making our nation safer with this assault on this drug war, or our state less addicted to substances,” he added. “We need to change, radically change, the conversation and begin to talk about drugs, especially drugs like pot, in a different way.”
Booker continues to promote pro-cannabis legislation from his seat in the U.S. Senate. In 2015, he backed the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States Acts (CARERS), which would support individual states’ medicinal marijuana policies.
Today, Booker continues to spearhead pro-cannabis reform within the 2020 Democratic primaries, most notably with his reintroduction of the Marijuana Justice Act.
The bill places substantial focus on building equity for communities most devastated by the War on Drugs. In a comment about its design, Booker said, “The Marijuana Justice Act seeks to reverse decades of this unfair, unjust, and failed policy by removing marijuana from the list of controlled substances and making it legal at the federal level.”
Sen. Warren has claimed public support for cannabis legalization since at least 2011—but records show she hasn’t always been in favor of federal legality.
A New York Times article documents the succession of her political attitudes toward cannabis regulations, including a quote from a 2011 Senate Democratic primary debate, “No I don’t think it should be legalized. Medical Marijuana is one thing, but [cannabis] generally no.”
Warren demonstrated further opposition of cannabis legislation during her 2013 run for state Senate when she warned that a pro-legalization competitor, Dan Winslow, “wants us armed and stoned.”
In preparation for the 2020 Presidential election, Warren finally vocalized her advocacy for cannabis, honing in on legalization with the aim of repairing the flawed U.S. justice system, and wrongful incarceration.
In a questionnaire regarding 2020 nominees’ political angles presented by The American Prospect, Warren wrote, “I support delisting marijuana as a Schedule I drug to limit federal intervention when states have already legalized marijuana. […] I also support the full legalization of marijuana and restorative justice for those unjustly jailed for marijuana crimes.”
Like Booker, Warren sponsors the Marijuana Justice Act, calling for the removal of cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), amongst other objectives.
As we inch toward election day, we will review the backgrounds of more candidates, further emphasizing the question: Is a change of opinion the same as a flip-flop? Or does it show flexibility? Is the political face of our country allowed to evolve over time? With proven accounts of the Democratic Presidential nominees past opinions in mind, we can begin to determine how important an individual’s historical choices are to our vote.