As the 2020 United States election draws closer, the field of Democratic presidential candidates is undoubtedly crowded. As of this past Sunday, March 17, Quartz (qz.com) reports “13 confirmed candidates, three exploratory committees, and multiple “maybes.” The New York Times published an article which focuses on cannabis legalization as a unifying issue for 2020 Democrats.
Trip Gabriel of the Times writes, “Legalization has become a litmus test for candidates’ commitment to equal treatment for all races in policing and criminal justice as well as fighting economic inequality.”
The piece looks at the campaigns of several 2020 democratic candidates as they relate to marijuana legalization as a social justice issue:
New Jersey Senator Corey Booker announced his 2020 presidential campaign on February 1, 2019. In the same month, Booker introduced the Marijuana Justice Act, a social justice bill that claims it “would end the federal prohibition on marijuana, expunge records, and reinvest in communities most impacted by War on Drugs.” The Times cites a report by the ACLU, which discusses a racial bias in the pot arrests in the United States: “Marijuana use is roughly equal among Blacks and whites, yet Blacks are 3.73 times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession.” The Times notes that Booker’s Bill has support from other 2020 candidates including Kirsten Gillibrand, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Kamala Harris.
The Times article discusses potential 2020 candidate and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. as a problematic figure in the race, as he was a leader in the “war on drugs” during the 1980s and 90s.
The Midwest continues to take a more conservative stance on legalization. The Times notes the Midwest’s overall hesitation around legalization as posing a treat, as opioid overdoses continue to affect many Midwestern states. Gabriel cites a study published by JAMA Internal Medicine entitled “Association Between US State Medical Cannabis Laws and Opioid Prescribing in the Medicare Part D Population,” which found that “After states legalized marijuana for medical use, prescriptions for opioids dropped nearly 15 percent.”
The former attorney general of California and 2020 democratic candidate, Ms. Kamala Harris, has changed her opinions on cannabis legalization. In a 2014 interview with Buzzfeed’s Adam Serwer, Harris said she does not oppose legalization, but did not outwardly endorse it either: “It would be easier for me to say, ‘Let’s legalize it, let’s move on,’ and everybody would be happy. I believe that would be irresponsible of me as the top cop.” Along with signing the aforementioned Marijuana Justice Act, Harris has been more outspoken about her support for legalization. She has tweeted several times denouncing the war on drugs and advocating for the decriminalization of cannabis on a federal level, citing the social justice issues surrounding the topic as in need of attention.
During this time of political uncertainty leading up to the 2020 presidential election, cannabis legalization is clearly a common cause for Democrats. In highlighting cannabis as a social justice issue many democratic candidates are taking on as a part of their campaigns, Trip Gabriel of the Times informs readers about some of what’s at stake for those who have suffered and continue to suffer due to prohibition, what we have learned from states that have legalized, as well as what candidates and polls are discussing in terms of addressing legalization as it pertains to social justice.
Gabriel T. Legalizing Marijuana, With a Focus on Social Justice, Unites 2020 Democrats.
The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/17/us/politics/marijuana-legalize-democrats.html. Published March 17, 2019. Accessed March 18, 2019.
Booker, Lee, Khanna Introduce Landmark Marijuana Justice Bill. Cory Booker | U.S. Senator for New Jersey. https://www.booker.senate.gov/?p=press_release&id=892. Published February 28, 2019. Accessed March 18, 2019.
Serwer A. California’s Attorney General Thinks Legal Weed Is Inevitable. BuzzFeed News. https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/adamserwer/californias-attorney-general-thinks-legal-weed-is-inevitable. Published November 17, 2014. Accessed March 18, 2019.
Quartz Staff. The Democrats running for president: How to tell them apart. Quartz. https://qz.com/1536793/your-guide-to-the-2020-democratic-presidential-candidates/. Published March 17, 2019. Accessed March 18, 2019.
Jaeger K. Where Presidential Candidate Kamala Harris Stands On Marijuana. Marijuana Moment. https://www.marijuanamoment.net/where-presidential-candidate-kamala-harris-stands-on-marijuana/. Published February 28, 2019. Accessed March 18, 2019.
Bradford AC. Medical Cannabis Laws and Opioid Prescribing in the Medicare Part D Population. JAMA Internal Medicine. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/2676999?redirect=true. Published May 1, 2018. Accessed March 18, 2019.