criminal justice

Do you support the federal legalization of recreational marijuana?

Yes, legalize it federally

Yes, legalize it federally

Michael Bennet

U.S. senator, Colorado

“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.

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Michael Bennet
Bennet

Pete Buttigieg

Former mayor, South Bend, Ind.

Buttigieg supports the federal legalization of recreational marijuana, a campaign spokesperson told The Post.

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Pete Buttigieg
Buttigieg

Tulsi Gabbard

U.S. representative, Hawaii

“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.

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Tulsi Gabbard
Gabbard

Amy Klobuchar

U.S. senator, Minnesota

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.”

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Amy Klobuchar
Klobuchar

Deval Patrick

Former governor, Massachusetts

Patrick supports the federal legalization of recreational marijuana, a campaign spokesperson told The Post.

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Deval Patrick
Patrick

Bernie Sanders

U.S. senator, Vermont

“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.

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Bernie Sanders
Sanders

Tom Steyer

Billionaire activist

Steyer supports the federal legalization of recreational marijuana, he told The Post.

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Tom Steyer
Steyer

Elizabeth Warren

U.S. senator, Massachusetts

“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.

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Elizabeth Warren
Warren

Andrew Yang

Tech entrepreneur

“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.”

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Andrew Yang
Yang

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.

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Cory Booker
Booker

Marianne Williamson (Dropped out)

Author

Williamson is no longer running for president. Williamson supports the federal legalization of recreational marijuana, she told The Post.

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Marianne Williamson
Williamson

Decriminalize and let states decide on legalization

Decriminalize and let states decide on legalization

Joe Biden

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.”

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Joe Biden
Biden

Mike Bloomberg

Former New York mayor

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.”

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Michael Bloomberg
Bloomberg

John Delaney

Former U.S. representative, Maryland

“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.

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John Delaney
Delaney

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Background Since the 1990s, dozens of states have legalized medical marijuana, with some going further in the last decade by legalizing recreational marijuana. This put state laws in opposition to federal ones, which count marijuana among the most dangerous drugs. President Barack Obama expressed a desire to regulate recreational marijuana like cigarettes or alcohol in late 2016, but his administration was generally reluctant to shift federal marijuana policy, frustrating activists.

As a candidate, Hillary Clinton backed moving marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule II drug, acknowledging the medical uses and allowing states to pursue recreational legalization. Following her loss, most Democratic candidates have rapidly embraced marijuana legalization, emphasizing the racial inequity in marijuana prosecutions.

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.

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Candidate illustrations by Ben Kirchner.