March 3, 2020

2020 presdidential election super tuesday candidates stance on marijuana legalization

It was all Biden in early results, but Sanders came back to claim a flurry of delegates in California.

With a clean sweep of the American South, former Vice President Joe Biden cruised into the lead for the Democratic presidential nomination on Tuesday night, eclipsing the former frontrunner, Sen. Bernie Sanders, in the total delegate tally.

Biden shot ahead with victories in Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Oklahoma. He also claimed wins in Massachusetts and Minnesota.

Sanders, meanwhile, won the Democratic primaries in California, Colorado, Utah, and Vermont. Texas and Maine remain too close to call.

An hour after polls closed in California at 8pm PST, Biden led Sanders in the total delegate count, 241 to 220. (A candidate will need 1,991 of the 3,979 total pledged delegates to win the nomination.) Delegates from a number of states, including California and Texas, have yet to be included in those numbers.

The end for Warren?

Sen. Elizabeth Warren ran a distant third in most contests, and even fell to fourth in a couple states behind former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg. The poor showing most likely will spell the end for her campaign, as she retains only 16 delegates in what’s now looking like a two-candidate race. Warren claimed 21% of the vote in her home state of Massachusetts, but even there ran third behind Biden and Sanders.

Bloomberg made a respectable showing in a number of states, notching 9 delegates and winning the vote outright in American Samoa.

What does all this mean for cannabis legalization? Plenty.

Now it’s Biden vs. Sanders

Biden and Sanders sit at the far ends of the legalization spectrum within the Democratic Party.

Biden was a primary architect of the drug war in the 1980s and 1990s, and even today can’t bring himself to consider federal legalization. He says he’s for decriminalization instead.

Sanders, by contrast, has a long record of advocacy for legalization and drug reform. The Vermont senator has said he will end federal prohibition “on day one” by executive order. (Leafly’s David Bienenstock has written extensively on both Biden and Sanders and their policies.)

Seems pretty clear which one backs legalization

There are no guarantees in life or politics. But one candidate has explicitly promised to legalize. The other has issued a tepid statement on an issue he doesn’t care to discuss.

We’ve heard two main arguments in each candidate’s favor. Because of his explicit “day one” promise, Sanders would certainly kick-start the process of federal legalization. Those who back Biden argue that the former Delaware senator has the backroom bargaining skills—unlike Sanders—to hammer out a deal with Congressional Republicans to at least pass a half-measure like the STATES Act.

Arguments against? Sanders’ critics say the maverick Vermonter doesn’t have the power or finesse to actually move a legalization measure through Congress. Biden’s critics believe he’ll simply ignore the issue for his entire term—if not actually take steps to curb the expansion of state legalization.

Voters to Bloomberg: There’s the door

Although he has enough money to stay in the race, Tuesday’s results should end the realistic hopes of perhaps the primary season’s worst cannabis candidate, Mike Bloomberg, who waged war on his own city’s citizens through the racist tactics of stop-and-frisk.

After going all-in on Super Tuesday, Bloomberg made a decent showing in a handful of states—placing second in California, gaining 23% of the vote in Colorado, and 18% in Texas. But the viability of his campaign has always depended on scooping up the moderate vote if and when Joe Biden drops out. And Joe Biden ain’t dropping out.

With the personal fortune he’s sunk into staff and TV ads, Bloomberg’s ROI on his investment at this point amounts to $55 million per delegate.

Hear me out: Biden’s not necessarily bad for state initiatives

Currently, advocates in 13 states are vying to put either medical or adult-use legalization measures on their statewide ballot in November. Perhaps half will collect enough signatures to actually appear before voters.

Having a Democratic nominee who’s an enthusiastic supporter—or a noncommittal neutralist—of those measures could cut both ways. Sanders might rev up interest in an adult-use initiative in, say, Arizona. But his warm embrace of legalization could turn off Republicans who might otherwise vote for the liberty and personal freedom that legalization offers. In 2016, we saw plenty of Trump voters swing in favor of medical and adult-use measures.

By ignoring legalization, a Biden candidacy could do those statewide initiatives a favor by keeping them nonpartisan. A vote for legalization wouldn’t be seen as a vote for “Joe’s issue.” Because it is definitely not his issue.

To keep on top of all the developments in cannabis politics and the 2020 election, bookmark Leafly’s continually updated Election 2020 page.

Bruce Barcott's Bio Image

Bruce Barcott

Leafly Senior Editor Bruce Barcott oversees news, investigations, and feature projects. He is a Guggenheim Fellow and author of Weed the People: The Future of Legal Marijuana in America.

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