What a Biden or Bernie Presidency Means For Cannabis Legalization


The Democratic Party has whittled down to Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden as the primary candidates to face up against Trump on the 3rd of November. But what does this mean for cannabis legalization?

In the past few months, major consolidation has occurred within the Democrat party. Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Mike Bloomberg, and most recently, Elizabeth Warren, have all dropped out of the race, leaving just Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders left to duke it out for the position of the primary candidate.

The two frontrunners for the race each offer a unique and distinct political position, with Biden typically considered to be a more moderate, Obama-styled politician, and Bernie considered to be a far-left progressive populist.

Biden Bernie Delegate Count Cannabis

Currently, Biden maintains a slight lead over Bernie with regards to Delegates, which is being aided by the outpouring of endorsements he's received from former candidates like Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, and Amy Klobuchar all aligning behind Biden.

At this rate, it seems that Biden is likely to walk away with the nomination, though Bernie has amassed a hardcore following of grassroots supporters who are ardently rallying behind him in order to push him to primacy. Whether Bernie's supporters will reach a critical mass to propel him into becoming the dominant candidate is likely to be revealed in the coming weeks. One thing is for certain though; one of these candidates will be squaring up against President Donald Trump to wrestle for the presidency in November.

That said, what would a Democrat president, in either Bernie or Biden, mean for the cannabis landscape after 2020?

Pot or Not?

While they occupy the same party, both Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders' views on cannabis are quite distinct from one another and would likely result in a very different impact on the cannabis community should either one of them defeat Donald Trump and gain the presidency.

Joe Biden, when talking about cannabis, famously stated in 2010 that "I still believe it's a gateway drug. I've spent a lot of my life as chairman of the Judiciary Committee dealing with this. I think it would be a mistake to legalize."

Biden's cannabis stance has been consistent throughout most of his political life, during which he spearheaded a continuation of the war on drugs as a senator.

Though upon his 2020 candidacy, Biden is changing his tune on cannabis, to a stance that is more in line with those he ran beside.

In fact, Biden mentioned in a recent interview that "When you talk about marijuana, everybody says, 'Biden says it's a gateway drug.' I don't think it's a gateway drug."

Of course, Biden is ignoring the fact that people arrived at that belief precisely because it is what he said, but nonetheless, he is moving in a more liberal direction when it comes to drug policy.

Biden's 2020 platform has stated that the former Vice President would federally decriminalize cannabis, expunge cannabis-related records, and open up avenues for more cannabis-related research. Additionally, in a recording released by Politico, Biden remarked that he thinks cannabis needs to be "basically, legalized."

To some, the vagueries around Biden's position might be concerning, especially given his previously hawkish position on the plant. To others, they'll undoubtedly be happy to see him concede some ground when it comes to ganja.

Whether Biden has genuinely changed his mind on marijuana, or whether he's simply adopting the most politically expedient position on the plant, will only be revealed should he overthrow Donald Trump and become America's 46th President.

Burnin' for Bernie?

Unlike Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders' stance on cannabis has remained largely consistent throughout his political career.

In 1972, Sanders became a Senate candidate for Vermont's Liberty Union Party, at which point he promised that if he were elected he'd do away with "All laws relating to prohibition of abortion, birth control, homosexual relations, and the use of drugs."

Bernie has maintained this ardent, liberal pro-pot stance ever since, which became most evident in his first bid for the presidency in the 2016 elections. In the lead up to the elections, Sanders declared that "too many Americans have seen their lives destroyed because they have criminal records as a result of marijuana use. That's wrong. That has got to change."

While Bernie was unsuccessful in his 2016 campaign bid, his grassroots supporters never left him, and he never lost sight of becoming commander in kief.

Bernie's latest bid for presidency has come packaged with a new comprehensive plan for marijuana legalization, which he released at precisely 4:20 pm on the 24th of October 2019. In it, Sanders stated that he would sign an executive order to declassify marijuana as a controlled substance and make cannabis legal at the federal level.

Sanders has also announced that he intends to make marijuana legalized within his first 100 days in the office, should he attain Presidency, and he'll also be appointing an Attorney General whose role would be focused primarily on ending the War on Drugs.

Who Will Win?

At the moment, it's looking like Joe Biden will likely become the frontrunner for the Democrat Party. Most of the prior candidates have consolidated around Biden, in addition to Biden gaining significant traction in his candidacy during the previous Super Tuesday. The only hope at this stage for Bernie is if he can reclaim a lot of ground in the next Super Tuesday, which will be revealed very shortly.

If the predictions pan out as expected, we will be looking at a Joe Biden versus Donald Trump race for the 2020 presidency. If this is the case, very little will change legislatively when it comes to cannabis. Trump has previously stated he wishes to "leave it up to the states" with regards to marijuana legalization, and Biden has said much the same.

The only real shakeup for the cannabis landscape in the US is if Bernie Sanders secures the primary nomination, and either wins the presidency or uses his platform to bring further attention to the benefits that cannabis legalization can bring.

The case for marijuana is an easy one to make, given that Illinois just made $75m in legal weed sales in two months, Colorado has raised over $1bn in tax revenue from cannabis since legalizing the plant in 2014, cannabis is the biggest job creator in the US and the black market inevitably shrinks upon legalization.

Regardless of who wins, one thing is for sure. The momentum behind marijuana isn't going anywhere, and we will continue to see a steady shift toward legalization with every passing day.

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Louis O'Neill
Louis O'Neill

Louis is a writer based in Sydney with a focus on social and political issues. Having interviewed local politicians and entrepreneurs, Louis now focuses on cannabis culture, legislation & reform.

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