All 2016 Candidates Support Legal Weed — Sort Of
Ted Cruz has been inconsistent on marijuana, at once critical of Obama’s failure to enforce federal law in legal states, though supportive of states’ rights. “I don’t support drug legalization, but I do support the Constitution,” Cruz told the Texas Tribune. “I think individual states can choose to adopt it. So if Texas had it on the ballot, I’d vote against it, but I respect the authority of states to follow different policies.”
John Kasich may be the most conservative candidate on cannabis policy. He told Hugh Hewitt he’s “totally opposed” to ending prohibition, campaigned against legalization in his home state of Ohio, and has flip-flopped on medical cannabis. “Medical marijuana, I think we can look at it,” he said at a New Hampshire town hall in February, four years after expressing opposition to it. Still, Kasich strongly supports the will of individual states: “On what grounds would you shut them down? First of all, you have a states’ rights issue. The people in those states have voted that way.”
Regardless of who wins, cannabis policy hinges also on Congress and the incoming administration. Trump has indicated he may select Chris Christie as attorney general — a potential blow to cannabis law reform. Christie has said he would enforce federal drug law in legal-marijuana states. “I will crack down and not permit it,” he said last year.
For reformers, an attorney general like Chris Christie would necessitate a change in federal law, says Michael Collins, deputy director at the office of national affairs for Drug Policy Action, the political arm of the Drug Policy Alliance. “What we need is a president who’s committed to ending federal prohibition to block out challenges that come with the conflict between state and federal law: banking issues, tax issues and drug testing employees.”
Congressional leadership will affect whether legislation can make it out of committee and onto the House or Senate floor. So far bills related solely to marijuana have never arrived at floor debate, though related amendments have passed in conjunction with budgetary legislation. Effectively, these amendments block funds for the Department of Justice to prevent states from implementing marijuana laws.
“It’s a matter of time before federal prohibition ends,” says Collins. With medical marijuana legal in 23 states and up for debate in several more, over half the nation will soon have legalized cannabis in some form or other. “Look at medical marijuana policy around the country, yet medical marijuana is still prohibited on a federal level,” he says. “That’s an untenable policy.”