Which Democratic Candidate Will Marijuana Reformers Rally Behind?


I previously blogged that marijuana law reformers should support Rand Paul as much as possible during the Republican presidential primary. Paul’s success may move both the Republican and Democratic candidates towards a sensible policy. While Hillary Clinton’s nomination on the Democratic side has had an aura of invincibility, that may not be the case. Clinton seemed inevitable in 2008 and once again, she will be challenged from the left on a variety of issues, including her vote to support the Iraq War and and potentially on marijuana law reform and broader criminal justice issues.

While they are not very well-known now, Lincoln Chafee and Martin O’Malley may just provide alternatives for cannabis law reformers. Former United States Senator Jim Webb, could also be an option. At this point, I personally believe that Chafee is the better choice, but we will learn a lot more about these candidates as the months roll along. Chafee has been a United States Senator (and voted against the Iraq War, Clinton’s biggest weakness), as well as a governor. Both Chafee (in Rhode Island) and O’Malley (in Maryland) signed decriminalization measures into law as governors. O’Malley has gone on record against legalization, however, as Chafee has kept an open mind and somewhat hedged his bets when he stated that legalizing marijuana could generate revenue that could go towards infrastructure.

From the Huffington Post:

“Let’s take it step by step on full legalization of marijuana, though; we want to see how it’s working in Colorado,” Chafee added. “Certainly, the revenue is enticing for all governors.”


When asked if the next steps toward “pot for potholes” might occur under his watch, Chafee said: “We’ll see what comes out of the legislature. We’re just still putting in the medical marijuana component and we’ll certainly see what happening in Colorado.”

“The ability to tax and put that revenue to beneficial means, whatever that might be — infrastructure, education — is tempting for governors,” Chafee said.

Hillary Clinton and the rest of the Democratic field will be answering questions about marijuana law reform early and often during the primary, and regardless of who comes out of the field, it is imperative that they go on record as at least being as good as President Obama on federal policy. It would be great if we get a president willing to publicly agree with the strong majority of Americans that support legalization than the former “Choom Gang” member, but so long as the federal government allows states to continue with legalization efforts without federal interference, the marijuana law reform movement will continue the march towards ending cannabis prohibition.

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.