Opinion: To legalize or not: Where do the presidential candidates stand on marijuana?


The political opinion on pot is evolving pretty quickly. For two years Congress has told the Justice Department not to spend money going after pot shops in states that have legalized medical marijuana, even though the drug remains illegal under federal law. President Obama has taken a hands-off approach as Colorado, Washington and other states have legalized adult recreational use. And now the Drug Enforcement Administration is considering reclassifying marijuana from the ludicrously inappropriate Schedule 1 (meaning no accepted medicinal value and highly addictive) -- a move the Times Editorial Board believes is way overdue.

Will the next president continue the federal government's increasingly mellow approach to marijuana? Or restart the drug war? Here's where the presidential candidates stand on pot:

Hillary Clinton

She has said she supports medical marijuana and wants to reclassify marijuana from a Schedule 1 drug to Schedule 2 (medicinal value, highly addictive) so researchers can do more studies on health effects, positive and negative, of cannabis.

She says states should be allowed to vote to legalize and regulate adult, recreational use. "But I want to see what the states learn from that experience, because there are still a lot of questions we still have to answer on the federal level,” Clinton said last month on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”

Bernie Sanders

He introduced legislation last fall that would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, which would let states regulate marijuana. The bill has no co-sponsors and doesn’t appear to be moving.

“In my view, states should have the right to regulate marijuana the same way that state and local laws now govern sales of alcohol and tobacco,” Sanders said last fall.

Ted Cruz

He has said that while he personally opposes the legalization of marijuana, he believes states should be able to decide their own cannabis policies.

But he has also criticized the Obama administration for deciding not to enforce the federal prohibition on marijuana when Colorado and Washington voters legalized recreational use.

John Kasich

He has opposed medical marijuana in the past, but recently said he is open to it.

As for legalizing recreational use, he told radio host Hugh Hewitt that he is totally opposed and as president he would “lead a significant campaign down at the grass roots level to stomp these drugs out of our country.” Yet in the same interview he said he recognized states’ rights.

Donald Trump

He is “100%” in favor of medical marijuana, he said on Fox News' "The O’Reilly Factor" in February.

On that same show, he hedged on the question of legalizing marijuana for adult use, saying it’s good in some ways, bad in others. However, last fall he told Nevada voters that he supports letting states decide whether they want to legalize adult recreational use.

For more on the candidates' thoughts on marijuana, check out the analysis by legalization advocates the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and the Marijuana Policy Project.

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