The sprawling 2020 Democratic presidential field seems to be coalescing around one position: That marijuana should be legalized.
On Monday in an email to supporters, former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX), who is widely expected to join the presidential race, advocated the federal legalization of marjiuana. And that wasn't just the puffery of a youngish politico known for skateboarding and shredding guitar on social media: Several Democratic presidential candidates have already voiced their support for legal pot.
Last week, Sen. Cory Booker reintroduced the Marijuana Justice Act, which he originally put forward in 2017. The bill would decriminalize marijuana at the federal level — removing it from the Schedule I list that it shares with heroin and LSD — and tap federal funds to encourage states to legalize pot.
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“The War on Drugs has not been a war on drugs, it’s been a war on people, and disproportionately people of color and low-income individuals,” Booker said in a statement. “The Marijuana Justice Act seeks to reverse decades of this unfair, unjust, and failed policy by removing marijuana from the list of controlled substances and making it legal at the federal level.”
Several announced Democratic candidates have signed up as co-sponsors for the Marijuana Justice Act, including Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who announced he was running for the Democratic nomination last weekend, launched the Marijuana Justice Initiative in January to pardon marijuana misdemeanors going back to 1998. While in Congress in the '00s, he voted several times to shield states that allowed medical marijuana from federal repercussions.
Even some of the party's midwest moderates are fronting with support for loosening restrictions: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) hasn't signed on to Booker's bill but said she supports legalizing marijuana. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), who is expected to announce a 2020 imminently, has said he opposes legalizing pot on a federal level, but supports decriminalization, medical marijuana and states' right to legalize.
It's a far cry from President Bill Clinton's denial of inhalation, and even President Obama's opposition to legalizing marijuana. But the ground has shifted, and with it, the political winds: Today, 75 percent of Democrats support the legalization of marijuana, along with 53 percent of Republicans, according to a recent Gallup poll. That's compared to 54 percent and 28 percent, respectively, a decade ago.