The 2016 Election is in full swing, even though it's still 2015. The stakes are high, and whoever is elected President of the United States in 2016 is going to largely affect the direction that cannabis policy in America goes from then onward. 2016 will be a crucial time for cannabis reform. There have been a lot of cannabis victories this decade, and a marijuana friendly President would only help to increase the marijuana movement's momentum. A President like Chris Christie would set the movement back quite a bit.
There are a lot of candidates this election cycle for President. On the GOP side, Donald Trump seems to be getting the most attention, although there are still a ton of people in the race. For the most part on the Democrat side things have widdled down to three names - Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden. Although, Joe Biden doesn't seem to be getting much traction, and still seems to be in an 'exploratory phase' of his candidacy.
Traditionally, cannabis consumers tend to favor Democrats. No, that does not mean all of the time, so if you are a non-Democrat and consume cannabis, calm down, I'm just pointing out the math. For me, I have never liked Hillary Clinton from a purely cannabis policy standpoint. I have always felt that she is ultimately against cannabis, but realizes that appearing to be neutral on the issue is good for her political career, so she uses classic tactics to make it appear like she's semi-sympathetic to cannabis. I wrote an article about it last year that you can read if you like.
I don't know of one cannabis consumer that is voting for Hillary. That's not to say that they aren't out there (again, don't freak out), but I know A LOT of cannabis consumers all over the country, and not one of them is expressing support for Hillary. Maybe they are closet Hillary fans and plan on voting for her on the down low, but they definitely don't talk about her publicly. Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, seems to be really popular among my cannabis consuming friends and colleagues, and that level of popularity is growing everyday.
Has Bernie Sanders specifically came out in support of marijuana legalization? No. But he has came out publicly with his support for reforming things that overlap with cannabis reform, specifically with prison reform and other criminal justice reforms. He has also made many comments about the deficiencies of marijuana prohibition in general, and has hinted at a marijuana platform that will be announced in the near future. Per The Hill:
"I can tell you very few people were arrested for smoking marijuana [when I was mayor]," Sanders said. "Our police had more important things to do."
Sanders, a self-described Socialist who is running for the Democratic nomination, said he supports decriminalizing recreational marijuana in Vermont, and is watching the situation in Colorado "very closely."
Colorado was one of the first states to legalize both recreational and medical marijuana.
"Colorado has led the effort toward legalizing marijuana and I'm going to watch very closely to see the pluses and minuses of what they have done," Sanders said. "I will have more to say about this issue within the coming months."
I have felt that Bernie Sanders definitely wants to end marijuana prohibition, but that he is laying the groundwork for such an announcement of support. If he came out and simply said 'yes, legalize it,' he would be disregarded as a 'crazy liberal' and that of course he wants to legalize marijuana, and it wouldn't go anywhere. But if he comes out and says he wants to support prison reforms, that he wants to support other criminal justice reforms, that he wants to address racial issues in America, and a bunch of other planks that make up a larger platform, he will develop a more constructive conversation. Then, after he can get the discussion on the right path, then he comes out with full support for legalization. If he does it that way, I think he will be taken more seriously by non-cannabis consumers, and even some cannabis opponents.
I think that's why ultimately so many cannabis advocates are expressing their support for Bernie Sanders. There is still a lot of time between now and Election Day 2016, or for that matter even between today and the primaries, but so far Bernie Sanders seems to be winning the hearts and minds of cannabis consumers in a way that I have never seen before. My buddy Kaliko wrote a very compelling article about Bernie Sanders, and why all cannabis advocates should support him. You can read that article at this link here.
What do cannabis reformers think? Do you plan on voting for Bernie Sanders? Why or why not? Do you plan on voting for someone else? Why or why not?