With election season upon us, American cannabis users are looking to see which candidate is in support of legalizing marijuana—and how soon it might happen.
In this guide, we’ll go over everything you need to know about how the 2020 election will impact the legalization of cannabis, and what you can do to make your vote count.
Whether you’re well-versed in the current political landscape or you're new to the voting game, there are a couple of things to know before we dive into the candidates and their positions on cannabis.
Election season kicks off with the primary elections. They’re held state-by-state through the month of September, with Super Tuesday—when 14 state primaries are held that make up 40% percent of the country’s population—falling on March 3. The results for those elections found former Vice President Joe Biden winning 10 states and Senator Bernie Sanders winning California.
After the state primaries are held, next up is the General Election, which will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.
If you want to vote in your state’s primary, you need to make sure you’re registered. Deadlines and voting methods vary by state, so educate yourself on your state’s rules sooner than later. Some states allow you to send in your vote early via mail or absentee ballot, while some only allow voting at a polling station on the actual Election Day. If you need help finding your polling station, HeadCount has rounded up all the stations by state.
Things to Consider When Voting
In the upcoming election, Americans will be voting on not only the next president of the United States, but also 33 U.S. Senate seats, the entire 435 House of Representatives seats, 11 state governors and thousands of other state and local government positions.
While there are dozens of different national issues to consider when selecting a candidate, the legality around the use of cannabis is a major one. This election will determine the future of the fight to legalize adult-use cannabis at both federal and state levels, the reform for medical cannabis policies and more.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to choose who you vote for. And it’s your responsibility as a citizen to familiarize and educate yourself on each of the candidate’s policies—especially when it comes to cannabis.
Two good resources to check are NORML (an organization that actually graded all of the state governors on their official cannabis policies) and The Cannabis Voter Project (which collected information on how many members of Congress voted on cannabis).
Presidential Candidates on Cannabis
When the 2020 election season began, there were dozens of candidates running for president. That number has dwindled and will continue to, but at the time of this writing, below is where the current candidates stand on cannabis:
- In support of federal legalization: Bernie Sanders
- In support of letting the states decide on legalization: Joe Biden
Prior to the majority of candidates dropping out, 20 other candidates had legalization views similar to Bernie, who also advocates for past convictions for possession of marijuana to be expunged. Bernie is also a co-sponsor of the Marijuana Justice Act which would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substance Act. He’s also stated that he would legalize marijuana in all of America through an executive order.
Biden, on the other hand, has a long history with the war on drugs. Most remember his frequent statements about how marijuana is a gateway drug. In this campaign, however, he seems to have changed his tune, stating that marijuana “has to be, basically, legalized.”
Unlike Bernie—who says he would lift the federal ban on marijuana within his first 100 days as president—Biden would not change any cannabis policies immediately. Rather, he supports first gathering scientific research to prove that legalization is the right thing to do and to determine what side effects might occur.
Biden also revealed a plan to reduce mass incarceration by decriminalizing cannabis. Even with this newfound support of medical marijuana, Biden still maintains that he would leave legalization for recreational use for the states to decide.
Only five other candidates were in favor of Biden’s view to let the states decide for themselves.
When it comes to the incumbent runner, President Donald Trump, he formally stated during his 2016 campaign that he also believed states should be able to manage their own legalization policies. However, even though he claimed to be in favor of medicinal marijuana in the past, he is currently aiming to end protection for state-legal medical marijuana programs in his proposed 2021 federal budget. He also opposed a bill in 2019 that would have allowed VA healthcare providers to write medical cannabis recommendations for qualifying veterans in states where marijuana was legal.
So when it comes to Trump and marijuana, a lot is still unknown.
States and Cannabis
Not every state is voting on cannabis policies this election, but 12 states may. Below are the states and the legalization measures that might be on their 2020 ballots:
- Arizona: Smart & Safe Arizona could legalize recreational marijuana
- Arkansas: Arkansans for Cannabis Reform could legalize recreational marijuana
- Idaho: The Idaho Cannabis Coalition could legalize medical marijuana
- Mississippi: Mississippians for Compassionate Care could legalize medical marijuana
- Missouri: Missourians for a New Approach could legalize recreational marijuana
- Montana: Two measures by New Approach Montana have been filed to legalize recreational marijuana
- Nebraska: Nebraskans for Sensible Marijuana Laws could legalize medical marijuana
- New Jersey: There is an advisory vote placed on ballot by legislature that could legalize recreational marijuana
- North Dakota: LegalizeND could legalize recreational marijuana.
- Ohio: Cleveland attorney Tom Haren is aiming to legalize recreational marijuana
- Oklahoma: New Approach PAC could legalize recreational marijuana
- South Dakota: New Approach South Dakota could legalize medical marijuana
No matter where you stand on policies regarding the legalization of cannabis, it’s important now more than ever to exercise your right to vote. So long as you educate yourself on both the federal issues and the policies affecting your state, you can be sure that casting your vote can make a difference.