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Yes, legalize it federally
Yes, legalize it federally
Michael Bennet (Dropped out)
U.S. senator, Colorado
Bennet is no longer running for president. “Yes. I support removing marijuana from the list of controlled substances, automatically expunging the convictions of those who have served federal time for marijuana use and possession offenses, and reinvesting in low-income and minority communities who have been disproportionately affected by decades of failed drug policy,” Bennet told The Post. “I also support policies to ensure companies in states where marijuana is currently legal can access the banking system. As a former school superintendent in a state that has legalized marijuana, I am also focused on policies to ensure young people do not have access to it as their brains develop.” Bennet co-sponsored the Marijuana Justice Act.Candidate positions highlighted
Cory Booker (Dropped out)
U.S. senator, New Jersey
Booker is no longer running for president. “End the federal prohibition on marijuana and automatically expunge the records of those convicted on charges of marijuana use and possession,” Booker's Next Step criminal justice plan said. He introduced the Marijuana Justice Act.Candidate positions highlighted
Pete Buttigieg (Dropped out)
Former mayor, South Bend, Ind.
Buttigieg is no longer running for president. Buttigieg supports the federal legalization of recreational marijuana, a campaign spokesperson told The Post.Candidate positions highlighted
Tulsi Gabbard (Dropped out)
U.S. representative, Hawaii
Gabbard is no longer running for president. “The failed war on drugs is an attack on our values of freedom and fairness as Americans,” Gabbard's campaign website said. “In recent years, many states have taken initiative by legalizing marijuana, reforming drug laws and sentencing guidelines, and winding down the “War on Drugs.” Now it’s time for the federal government to do its part.” Gabbard co-sponsored the Marijuana Justice Act.Candidate positions highlighted
Amy Klobuchar (Dropped out)
U.S. senator, Minnesota
Klobuchar is no longer running for president. Klobuchar supports federal legalization or recreational marijuana, a campaign spokesperson confirmed to The Post. Klobuchar previously told The Post that she supports “legalization of marijuana and believes that states should have the right to determine the best approach to marijuana within their borders.”Candidate positions highlighted
Deval Patrick (Dropped out)
Former governor, Massachusetts
Patrick is no longer running for president. Patrick supports the federal legalization of recreational marijuana, a campaign spokesperson told The Post.Candidate positions highlighted
Bernie Sanders (Dropped out)
U.S. senator, Vermont
Sanders is no longer running for president. “Yes. [Sanders] will take executive action to legalize marijuana by removing it from the Controlled Substances Act, expunge past convictions of marijuana-related offenses and ensure that victims of the War on Drugs are not passed over by the burgeoning marijuana industry,” a Sanders campaign spokesperson told The Post. “The criminalization of marijuana was a disaster, especially for African Americans and communities of color. We will ensure that revenue from marijuana is reinvested in communities hit hardest by the War on Drugs.” Sanders co-sponsored the Marijuana Justice Act.Candidate positions highlighted
Tom Steyer (Dropped out)
Steyer is no longer running for president. Steyer supports the federal legalization of recreational marijuana, he told The Post.Candidate positions highlighted
Elizabeth Warren (Dropped out)
U.S. senator, Massachusetts
Warren is no longer running for president. “Yes. I support the full legalization of marijuana and restorative justice for those unjustly jailed for minor marijuana crimes,” Warren told The Post. “We should delist marijuana as a Schedule I drug. I’ve also introduced legislation to keep the federal government from interfering in states that have legalized marijuana -- medical or recreational. And I support bringing marijuana businesses into the banking system and the tax system.” Warren co-sponsored the Marijuana Justice Act.Candidate positions highlighted
Marianne Williamson (Dropped out)
Williamson is no longer running for president. Williamson supports the federal legalization of recreational marijuana, she told The Post.Candidate positions highlighted
Andrew Yang (Dropped out)
Yang is no longer running for president. “Yes. Marijuana is now legal for adult use in 11 states and the District of Columbia, and 33 states have legalized medical marijuana in some form. Yet, thousands of Americans are locked away due to marijuana-related offenses,” a Yang campaign spokesperson told The Post. “To resolve ambiguity and end the incarceration of majiuana users, we must legalize marijuana at the federal level, especially since we can’t seem to enforce our current laws in a non-racist manner.”Candidate positions highlighted
Decriminalize and let states decide on legalization
Decriminalize and let states decide on legalization
Former vice president
“Biden believes no one should be in jail because of cannabis use,” a campaign spokesperson told The Post. “As president, he will decriminalize cannabis use and automatically expunge prior cannabis convictions. And, he will support the legalization of cannabis for medical purposes, leave decisions regarding legalization for recreational use up to the states and reschedule cannabis as a schedule II drug so researchers can study its positive and negative impacts.”Candidate positions highlighted
Mike Bloomberg (Dropped out)
Former New York mayor
Bloomberg is no longer running for president. Bloomberg supports decriminalizing marijuana and allowing states to decide on legalization, he told The Post. “In 2017, 72,000 Americans OD'd on drugs. In 2018, more people than that are ODing on drugs, have OD'd on drugs, and today incidentally, we are trying to legalize another addictive narcotic, which is perhaps the stupidest thing we've ever done,” Bloomberg said at a January 2019 event. “We've got to fight that, and that's another thing that Bloomberg philanthropies will work on in public health.”Candidate positions highlighted
John Delaney (Dropped out)
Former U.S. representative, Maryland
Delaney is no longer running for president. “I support removing marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, and I will direct federal prosecutors to review past cases and petition courts to expunge criminal records related to minor, non-violent marijuana offenses like simple possession,” Delaney told The Post. “I would put in place a federal regulatory structure for recreational marijuana and let states make their own decisions about legalization.” His campaign confirmed that he supports decriminalizing marijuana and allowing states to decide on legalization.Candidate positions highlighted
One of the only instances of major bipartisan cooperation in President Trump’s first term was the First Step Act, which Democratic and Republican lawmakers supported and Trump signed into law at the end of 2018. Democrats applauded the new law, but want to see additional legislation to address police use of force and overhaul the nation’s prison system.
Several candidates have embraced former presidential candidate and Sen. Cory Booker’s (D-N.J.) Marijuana Justice Act, which would legalize marijuana federally and expunge the records of individuals imprisoned on pot-related charges. Former vice president Joe Biden prefers to leave legalization up to the states, but argues for decriminalizing the drug, meaning users could not be arrested for possessing it.
Most support eliminating mandatory minimums in federal sentencing and ending the use of privately run prison facilities, but there is some disagreement on whether individuals should be able to vote while incarcerated.
Where the candidates stand
Here’s where the candidates stand on criminal justice policy based on their statements, voting records and answers to a questionnaire that was sent to every campaign.
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Kevin Schaul contributed to this report.
How candidate positions were compiled
The Washington Post sent a detailed questionnaire to every Democratic presidential campaign asking whether it supports various changes to U.S. criminal justice policy. Candidates with similar stances were organized into groups using a combination of those answers, legislative records, action taken in an executive role, and other public comments, such as policy discussion on campaign websites, social media posts, interviews, town hall meetings and other news reports and surveys. See something we missed? Let us know.
This page will update as we learn more about the candidates’ plans. We also will note if candidates change their position on an issue. At initial publication, this page included major candidates who had announced a run for president. If a candidate dropped out after a question was published here, their stance is included under the "Show former candidates" option. If they dropped out before a question was first published, the Post did not reach out to get their stance.
Candidate illustrations by Ben Kirchner.
Recent changes on this page
April 8 Sanders and Gabbard dropped out of the presidential race.
March 5 Warren dropped out of the presidential race.
March 4 Bloomberg dropped out of the presidential race.
March 2 Klobuchar dropped out of the presidential race.
March 1 Buttigieg dropped out of the presidential race.
March 1 Steyer dropped out of the presidential race. The question about deportation efforts now focuses only on the groups that would be prioritized in deportations during a candidate's administration.
Feb. 12 Patrick dropped out of presidential race.
Feb. 11 Bennet and Yang dropped out of presidential race.
Jan. 31 Delaney dropped out of presidential race.
Jan. 13 Added Bloomberg support for marijuana decriminalization and stance on deportations.
Jan. 13 Booker dropped out of presidential race.
Jan. 10 Patrick's campaign said he supports voting right of formerly incarcerated individuals.
Jan. 10 Klobuchar's campaign confirmed her support for the federal legalization of marijuana.
Jan. 10 Williamson dropped out of presidential race.
Jan. 10 Page published.