How High Do 2020 Presidential Candidates Rank on Cannabis?

With some recent drops from the race, the field is shrinking and perhaps after Iowa caucuses this list will grow smaller, but for now here are the current 2020 Presidential candidates on Weed.

Starting on the Republican side with the current President, Donald J. Trump. Cannabis unfortunately joins a lengthy list of promises the Trump campaign made before the election that it has yet to follow through on. Prior to the election Trump stated he would leave legalization up the states, then he appointed Jeff Sessions to be attorney general who almost immediately tore up the Cole Memorandum left by the Obama Administration that stated the federal government would yield to States on the issue of Cannabis enforcement. Since the resignation of Sessions, however, current Attorney General William Barr has shown a desire to deschedule Cannabis since he does not see it possible to undue current progress on Cannabis Legalization. This is also in no way meant to excuse the lack of executive action that is both in the realm of the current President’s authority but also very much desired by his voter base.

*Before we get to the bulk of the 2020 Democratic Candidates, the rating for mayor Stop and Frisk is so horrible he doesn’t even make the chart. Throughout his career he has dismissed evidence from medical advocates even after admitting to not only trying it but liking it early on in his career. He now says he was too forthcoming with personal details early on in his career and wishes he would have provided a non-answer. Combining all this with his recent “accidental” use of prison labor to make campaign calls, and the recent revelations he has basically been purchasing the DNC against the will of the voters. We will not even print his name.

As recently as this January Biden was spouting the same Regan era talking point about Cannabis being a potential “gateway” to other drugs. He believes he is being taken out of context, but his record as a Senator found little evidence of this and his policy positions have arguably been tied directly to an increase in prison populations. Investors have a problem with Joe as his stated plan to move Cannabis to a Schedule II narcotic which would almost certainly kill the newly legal industry.

Moving right into our next Democratic candidate, Tom Steyer. Now this ranking is not meant as a slight on his policy, Steyer has been a vocal critic of Congress’ inaction on the issue of Cannabis stating federal law has restricted his ability to pursue opportunities in funding minority and women-owned Cannabis businesses through a community bank he founded. Since Steyer has taken the Giving Pledge there is the very real possibility these business opportunities would be completely based in good. Nevertheless, his inability to articulate the deeper nuanced layers of the issue gets him the rating of Okay. And that’s not bad, you know if your friend pulled out a bag of him and rolled him up, you wouldn’t take it as an insult.

Despite rarely speaking about Cannabis, in a short statement her campaign said she, “supports decriminalization and legalization”. She also supports criminal justice reform as a means to reduce mass incarceration. Unfortunately, she has made zero comments on social media in support of Cannabis except for praising The 2018 Farm Bill’s inclusion of hemp legalization. It also appears before launching her campaign for President she deleted a statement from her website that read, “I support Minnesota’s medical marijuana law for people with cancer, multiple sclerosis, and other approved conditions.” We can only hope the reason her campaign chose to delete this section is that it went nowhere near far enough.

Now onto a candidate who is hard to rank because he has zero political experience, but since that is clearly no longer a requirement… let’s dive right in. Yang does deserve praise for having a very progressive and fact-based policy of decriminalizing most street drugs and switching to an emphasis of treatment over punishment. However, his timing of saying he would do so on April 20th of his first year as president drew criticism for prioritizing the media moment over people’s lives. He and his campaign quickly changed course saying he would release all non-violent offenders on day one through executive action. A draft copy of this proposed executive order would likely increase his dank-ness.

That brings us to another candidate very hard to classify. While being Mayor he has had relatively little opportunity to make any progress on Cannabis legislation. That said he has proposed an admittedly flawed, but incredibly progressive strategy for ending America’s War on Drugs. His plan to decriminalize not only Cannabis, but all drugs is by far the boldest stance on drugs of any 2020 candidate. He even goes on to prove he actually understands the issue by suggesting he would move America towards a system of rehabilitation and counseling over incarceration. The major issue with Mayor Pete’s plan is that he relies far too heavily on the for-profit insurance system. His proposed policy of blanket decriminalization would be the most dank if he supported a true medicare-for-all system. Unfortunately, as it reads now, we wouldn’t be sending people to jail for drugs anymore, just debtor’s prison for not being able to pay their rehab bills.

The last few years Senator Warren has been a vocal advocate for both Cannabis banking laws and the need to end private prisons as she rightly claims they “pervert” our justice system. There are several examples of Warren co-sponsoring and supporting great bills that would vastly improve Americans’ lives, yet she has not had a chance to vote on any with McConnell blocking anything Cannabis related. She also comes down a little for jumping on the bandwagon late after her home state of Massachusetts legalized Recreational Marijuana in 2017. Warren falsely claimed she supported the state changing its Cannabis laws when she had not actually endorsed any of the several previous measures to do so.

Her depth of understanding on the complexity of this issue and her active attempts to make progress in these areas is truly commendable. The long list of bills she has supported and written include protecting medical marijuana patients, legalizing industrial hemp, and most notably her work to block the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs from denying benefits to patients testing positive for Cannabis. She’s even taken this a step further by supporting a bill requiring the VA to conduct studies on the potential therapeutic benefits of Cannabis, and to top it off she pushed for the expansion of research into the potential climate saving benefits that switching to hemp based products could possibly yield.

“Our outdated policies on marijuana are having devastating ripple effects on individuals and communities across the country,” the congresswoman from Hawaii’s 2nd District said in a statement. “They have turned everyday Americans into criminals, torn apart families, and wasted huge amounts of taxpayer dollars to arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate people for non-violent marijuana charges. Our current criminal justice system puts people in prison for smoking marijuana, while allowing corporations like Purdue Pharma who are responsible for the opioid-related deaths of thousands of people to walk away scot-free with their coffers full.”

Thank you for all your work on these very important issues Congresswoman.


Over 20 years ago, then Congressman Sanders, sponsored a House Bill to legalize and regulate medical marijuana making him decades ahead of the other candidates. In 2015 he filed the first ever Senate Bill to end Cannabis prohibition. Additionally, he was the first Presidential candidate ever to have cannabis legalization as part of their platform. On 4 separate occasions Sanders has cast votes on the amendments that protected legal medical marijuana states, from federal intervention. Showing he, or at least someone in his campaign is clever, on October 25th at precisely 4:20pm he released an incredibly detailed and far reaching plan including the federal legalization of Cannabis using executive action and the expungement of non-violent Cannabis records within his first 100 days in office.
Speaking in Iowa last June, he declared, “We cannot let corporate America take over hemp and marijuana … The people who suffered, the people who went to jail, the people who were arrested deserve to be able to make some money from what is now legal.”

While there may be some issues with the Sanders plan, if the tax burden placed on Cannabis is too high, the encouragement of co-op and equity systems may be able to reduce some of the black market problems currently facing legal states.

His campaign has even gone on record to state that they haven’t ruled out covering medical Cannabis through Medicare-for-All. While at first glance, Cannabis may seem like a single-issue subject, However the many areas of our society it impacts make it anything but. Since the 1960’s Cannabis demonization has been used as a scape-goat to oppress people of color and would-be radicals, and Bernie Sanders has been there since just as long, fighting for our rights before most of us were even born.

That’s why it’s obvious to anyone keeping track, Bernie Sanders is indeed The Dankest.


Kyle Shelley


kulture blog author kyle shelley

KULTURE Contributor