Hillary Clinton Follows Bernie Sanders: Doesn’t Want the Federal Government to Interfere with Legalization


Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) had already won the hearts and minds of many cannabis law reform advocates before the first Democratic presidential debate by stating that he would personally vote “YES” on marijuana legalization and called for reforming our failed War on Drugs. Hillary Clinton provided good answers as well, agreeing on the need for criminal justice reform and supporting medical cannabis. Clinton wasn’t prepared to support legalization at the debate, but the day after the debate, she has stated that the federal government shouldn’t interfere with the marijuana laws in Colorado and other states that are leading the way.


In the CNN debate Tuesday, Clinton declined to take a position on the legalization of marijuana, but she was not asked how she would handle state-legalized pot as president.

In contrast with Republican candidate Chris Christie, who wants to use federal power to stop legalized sales of marijuana in states like Colorado, Clinton told 9NEWS, “I want to give you the space” to experiment with pot policy.

“I really believe it’s important that states like Colorado lead the way so we can learn what works and what doesn’t work,” Clinton told 9NEWS political reporter Brandon Rittiman. “I would certainly not want the federal government to interfere with the legal decision made by the people of Colorado.”

The position that the federal government should allow states to be able to legalize without interference is very similar to a statement by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders made during an interview with the Iowa program, Little Village back in early September. Hopefully, whether Sanders or Clinton ultimately wins the Democratic nomination, they consider the fact that federal changes are needed above and beyond just refraining from arresting and prosecuting people for marijuana. For the regulated cannabis systems to truly work in legalized states, marijuana businesses also need effective tax and banking regulations that treat state-regulated cannabis businesses the same as other businesses.

Many may scoff at Clinton’s flip-flop or evolution on the issue, as she opposed marijuana decriminalization during her previous presidential run and hasn’t been even been an outspoken supporter of medicinal cannabis until last night, but cannabis law reform advocates have to be pleased with how cannabis policy has been shaping up during the Democratic primary battle. All Democratic candidates seem to want to move forward towards a sane cannabis policy that doesn’t lock people in cages for marijuana, and that is progress, political cynicism or not.

The video of Clinton’s interview. Marijuana issue starts at 1:30:


Anthony Johnson

Anthony, a longtime cannabis law reform advocate, was Chief Petitioner and co-author of Measure 91, Oregon's cannabis legalization effort. He served as director of both the New Approach Oregon and Vote Yes on 91 PACs, the political action committees responsible for the state's legalization campaign. As director of New Approach Oregon, Anthony continues to work towards effectively implementing the cannabis legalization system while protecting small business owners and the rights of patients. He sits on the Oregon Marijuana Rules Advisory Committee and fights for sensible rules at the legislature as well as city councils and county commissions across the state. Anthony helps cannabis business comply with Oregon's laws and advises advocates across the country. He also serves as content director of both the International Cannabis Business Conference and the Oregon Marijuana Business Conference, helping share the vision of moving the cannabis industry forward in a way that maintains the focus on keeping people out of prison and protecting patients. He was a member of the Oregon Health Authority Rules Advisory Committee, assisting the drafting of the administrative rules governing Oregon’s state-licensed medical marijuana facilities. He first co-authored and helped pass successful marijuana law reform measures while a law student at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law. He passed the Oregon Bar in 2005 and practiced criminal defense for two years before transitioning to working full-time in the political advocacy realm. His blogs on Marijuana Politics are personal in nature and don't speak for or reflect the opinions of any group or organization.