The Politics of Federal Marijuana Legalization

The Story:

Heading into the 2020 presidential election cycle, it is obvious how completely the politics surrounding marijuana has changed in recent decades, years, and even just months. Candidates with a relatively ‘liberal’ approach to this issue used to be quite careful about saying so; now they trumpet their demands and seek to outbid each other in the completeness of their support for legalization.

A Scorecard:

Cory Booker, a US Senator from New Jersey now running for President, recently re-introduced into that chamber a bill that would legalize marijuana at the federal level. He had introduced it before, but to no effect. This time, four other candidates for President have signed on a co-sponsors: Bernie Sanders (VT), Elizabeth Warren (MA), Kamala Harris (CA), and Kirsten Gillibrand (NY).

Just four years ago the politics of legalization was pricklier. Secretary Clinton, in her campaign for President, said that she was opposed to federal legalization, but she would encourage states to make their own decisions.

Her husband, Bill Clinton, in his first successful campaign for President in 1992, famously offered a half-apology for his own college-aged experiments with marijuana, saying that he hadn’t inhaled. The fact that he felt it necessary to say that indicates the distance between that milieu and our own.

The Thing to Know:

In the Farm Bill enacted in December 2018, the cultivation of hemp in the United States was legalized. Hemp is a close botanical cousin to marijuana, though without the THC. This legislation gives farmers a new source of revenue and in the process may help remove the remaining stigma from both cannabis cousins.

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