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What Do the 2016 Presidential Candidates Think About Cannabis?

UPDATED: 2/3/2016

Here at Leafly we’re already speculating on how the 2016 presidential election could seriously impact the future of cannabis in the United States. A staunch opponent of legalization could completely reverse all of the progress made in recent years, while a pro-cannabis candidate (or even a neutral candidate) could help further this movement towards the end of prohibition.

Follow us as we give you the full rundown on which candidates are in your cannabis corner and rate them on a five-tile Presidential OG scale (one being poor, five being stellar) — we’ll be sure to update this article as more candidates announce their bid for the 2016 ticket and other candidates drop out.

Republican Presidential Candidates


Donald Drumpf

Donald Trump is a fascinating candidate, mostly because he is a businessman, not a politician, and, if we’re being honest here, is more of a reality show star than a legitimate candidate. However, since he announced his candidacy, his opinions on cannabis have come into the spotlight and he has a surprisingly liberal stance.

He’s a business magnate who thinks in terms of revenue, so although he has never used cannabis, he has said that he would like to see marijuana legalized, and he’s had that thought since 1990.

Trump’s argument is that it would reduce the prison population as well as reducing the costs of enforcement, and he would use the revenue to fund drug education. What an incredibly progressive idea!

Canna-Support Meter: 4 out of 5

Presidential OG 4 out of 5 tiles


Ben Carson

Ben Carson, AKA the neurosurgeon inspiration for the Cuba Gooding, Jr. movie “Gifted Hands.” I had such high hopes for you (pun intended). Unfortunately, Dr. Ben Carson is of the “marijuana is a gateway drug” mindset, believing that the legalization of cannabis in Colorado is an example of the United States heading straight for hedonism. Alright, alright, so he doesn’t support recreational cannabis, but does he support medical marijuana? Yes, he has said that the “medical use of marijuana in compassionate cases has certainly been proven useful.”

Canna-Support Meter: 2.5 out of 5

Presidential OG 2.5 out of 5 tiles


Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush admitted to having used cannabis in his youth, but opposes the legalization of cannabis from either a recreational standpoint or even for medical marijuana. During last year’s general election, when Florida proposed an amendment to legalize medical marijuana, the former governor urged voters to reject it. As we are all aware, the amendment was rejected by just 2%, and it appears that Jeb was behind a few of those “no” votes. However, in a more recent appearance, when asked specifically about marijuana legalization, he was still firmly opposed but said that it should be up to the states to decide.

Canna-Support Meter: 1.5 out of 5

Presidential OG 1.5 out of 5 tiles


Carly Fiorina

Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett Packard, is branding herself as the cool, hip, GOP alternative to Hillary Clinton, but how cool is she, really? At the Conservative Political Action Conference, she said that she opposes marijuana legalization, even in medical situations. She referenced undergoing cancer treatments and turning down the offer of medical marijuana from her doctor on the basis that “we don’t really know how it interacts with other substances.”

However, she also said in a recent interview that she respects state rights and that “They’re within their rights to legalize marijuana, and they’re conducting an experiment I hope the rest of the nation is looking closely at.” When pushed further on the topic of Colorado’s legalization, her words were, “My personal opinion is the legalization of marijuana does not help us. Are they within their rights? Yes.” Sounds like Carly will not attempt to crack down on legalization efforts, but the likelihood that she’ll progress the cannabis movement forward seems to be slim to none.

Canna-Support Meter: 2.5 out of 5

Presidential OG 2.5 out of 5 tiles


Ted Cruz

Surprisingly, Ted Cruz has seemingly changed his stance on cannabis since the last time we checked in with him. Last January he criticized President Obama and the Department of Justice for not enforcing federal drug laws, but during the Conservative Political Action Conference, his response was more lenient: “If the citizens of Colorado want to go down that road, that’s their prerogative. I personally don’t agree with it, but that’s their right.” Although he has said that if it were on the ballot in Texas, he would not personally support cannabis legalization, he respects state rights: “I also believe that’s a legitimate question for the states to make a determination…I think it is appropriate for the federal government to recognize that the citizens of those states have made that decision.” It would seem that Teddy is aware of the changing attitudes towards cannabis, even among Republican voters.

Canna-Support Meter: 2.5 out of 5

Presidential OG 2.5 out of 5 tiles


Mike Huckabee

The former Arkansas governor said during his 2012 campaign that he does not support the legalization of marijuana in any instance, not even for medicinal purposes. He also supports stricter penalties for drug-related crimes (the exact opposite of decriminalization), saying that drug education is not as effective as punishing drug users. Huckabee sounds like he’s living in the past. Keep up with the times, Huck, or you’ll risk being left behind while the rest of the world progresses forward!

Canna-Support Meter: 0 out of 5

Presidential OG 0 out of 5 tiles


Marco Rubio

Marco Rubio claims that he has never used cannabis but is also firmly aware that no one believes him. He also opposed the medical marijuana amendment in Florida last year, but he has stated that he supports the use of low-THC, “non-euphoric” forms of cannabis, making him a medical CBD supporter (which is better than nothing, eh?). That being said, he also indicated recently that, given the opportunity, he would enforce federal marijuana laws, although he seems less concerned with cannabis itself and more concerned with enforcing federal laws in general. He has been quoted as saying “I’m not in favor of legalizing marijuana. I’m not. I never have been.”

Looks like this candidate is bound and determined to continue the War on Drugs.

Canna-Support Meter: 2 out of 5

Presidential OG 2 out of 5 rating


John Kasich

Although this former governor of Ohio posits himself as a Republican moderate, his stance on cannabis is anything but. During a radio interview in April of 2015, he made a bold statement that he is “totally opposed” to marijuana legalization, comparing cannabis to a heroin epidemic, saying that “Drugs are a scourge in this country.”

However, when pressed further upon the issue of Colorado and Washington’s recreational legalization, he balked at saying he would enforce federal law, insisting that it’s a state’s rights issue to which he would have to give serious thought and consideration.

Canna-Support Meter: 1.5 out of 5

Presidential OG 1.5 out of 5 tiles


Rand Paul

Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) seems to be an unlikely pro-cannabis candidate, but he is, in fact, just that! He was a co-sponsor of the CARERS Act, which could revolutionize medical marijuana in the United States by changing the classification of cannabis from a federal level. Generally, Republican candidates are not canna-friendly, but Rand Paul (who, we might add, is the son of surprisingly pro-cannabis former presidential candidate Ron Paul) has said in the past that he believes the criminalization of marijuana is “ridiculous” and supports decriminalization. If you’re voting red, Rand seems like he could be your best bet for any forward momentum on the cannabis movement.

Canna-Support Meter: 5 out of 5

Presidential OG 5 out of 5 tiles


Bobby Jindal

At first glance, the socially conservative governor of Louisiana (a state that’s not exactly known for its progressive cannabis policies) seems like he would be an intense anti-cannabis opponent. Luckily for us, his stance has been evolving to be more and more friendly towards cannabis.

Jindal stated last year that he would be open to the idea of legalizing medical marijuana.This year, he put his words into action. First, Jindal agreed to sign a bill to reduce the penalties for multiple offenses of simple marijuana possession (the penalty still involves two to five years of jail time, but that’s an improvement over 20). Next, he agreed to an order allowing for the implementation of medical cannabis, which sets up a long-intended framework for a medical cannabis program by allowing cannabis to be sold by state-licensed pharmacies to qualified patients across the state of Louisiana.

Neither of these bills have been implemented yet, but the simple fact that Governor Jindal is open to the possibilities boosts his score on the Canna-Support Meter.

Canna-Support Meter: 3 out of 5

Presidential OG 3 out of 5 tiles


Rick Santorum

I don’t know about you, but just the name Rick Santorum brings to mind *ahem* unpleasant thoughts. But where does he stand on cannabis? Well, he admits to using cannabis in his younger days, but he’s been a bit flip-floppy when it comes to actually responding to the issue of marijuana and state rights. When confronted by a cannabis supporter on the campaign trail, he seems to support state rights, saying it should be up to the state’s laws whether a cannabis user should be arrested or not. When pushed further on the issue, he admitted that the federal role should play a part in making sure that states don’t legalize dangerous drugs. Is he lumping marijuana into the same category as these “dangerous drugs”?

Santorum had a slip-up during another Q&A, referring to marijuana as a “narcotic,” and, when corrected by the audience, admitted that he doesn’t know his marijuana laws very well. *Facepalm* Pass.

Canna-Support Meter: 1.5 out of 5

Presidential OG 1.5 out of 5 tiles


Jim Gilmore

A former Virginia governor and state attorney general, Jim Gilmore has a mixed record on drug policy. On the one hand, during his time in office, he pushed programs to provide more substance abuse treatment for drug offenders, including enhancing the Substance Abuse Reduction Effort program (SABRE). However, on the other hand, the new state police division created by SABRE also made hundreds of drug offender arrests, pushing the agenda that Gilmore stood firmly by: “Illegal drugs are not an acceptable part of our society.”

Gilmore also referred to cannabis in particular during a June 2015 televised interview, expressing his opposition:

“I am not a legalization guy…I understand that some people are able to use marijuana in a recreational way and it probably doesn’t hurt society, but at the end of the day, I don’t believe we ought to be legalizing and putting the legitimacy of the state onto substance abuse.”

Canna-Support Meter: 2 out of 5

Presidential OG 2 out of 5 rating


George Pataki

This New Yorker boasts an impressive resume — George Pataki was not only a former governor, he was also a mayor, as well as a delegate to the United Nations. That being said, Pataki’s stance on cannabis is fairly liberal. During an interview with Bloomberg News, he said that states like Colorado should be a testing ground for legalization and that states’ rights should be upheld so long as there are tight regulations on edibles and other infused products to ensure the safety of children.

Unfortunately, when he’s in charge of that state, he’s not nearly so forward-thinking. While he was governor of New York, he actually blocked a 1980 law that would have allowed the distribution of cannabis cigarettes (produced by Ole Miss at the federal government’s sole cannabis farm) to qualified patients with glaucoma or cancer. To be fair, his stance could have changed considerably over the past 30+ years as the country’s views towards cannabis have softened. Still, actions speak louder than words, Mr. Pataki.

Canna-Support Meter: 3 out of 5

Presidential OG 3 out of 5 tiles


Chris Christie

For anyone who supports cannabis, the announcement that Chris Christie is officially in the race inevitably sent daggers into their hearts. Chris Christie has easily been the most vocal opponent to cannabis of any of the Republican candidates. He is responsible for such quotes as “Why not legalize marijuana to make taxes go a little higher? To me, that’s blood money.” Excuse me?

Don’t worry, that’s not the last of it. Chris Christie also said he would not permit legalized marijuana, even in states that voted by a large majority to legalize. That means Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, D.C. would all be at risk under a Christie administration.

If you support cannabis and want to support its progress, remember: friends don’t let friends vote Christie.

Canna-Support Meter: 0 out of 5

Presidential OG 0 out of 5 tiles


Mark Emerson

Mark Whitty Everson (yes, that’s really his middle name) served as the 46th Commissioner of Internal Revenue from 2003-2007. What do we know about his stance on cannabis? We know nothing, Jon Snow. We jest, but it’s true – Leafly reached out to his campaign for Everson’s comments on drug policy and federal enforcement but, unfortunately, we received radio silence. What do we know about Everson in general? He has some scandals relating to his dismissal as CEO of the American Red Cross after just six months (what kind of presidential candidate would he be without a few skeletons in the closet?), he cares about tax reform (but how does he feel about revenue generated from legalized cannabis?), and he wants to enhance the economy by producing more jobs (including jobs created by the legal cannabis industry?).

We’ve still got a lot of questions for this guy before we can officially rate him on the Canna-Support Meter.

Canna-Support Meter:



Rick Perry

Rick Perry, despite being from Texas and coming from a conservative background, is unusually pro-cannabis. While he favors decriminalization rather than full legalization, he’s also made it quite clear that he believes in and respects the autonomy of state rights, telling the U.S. News & World Report, “I am a staunch supporter of the 10th Amendment. States should be able to set their own policies on abortion, same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization, then people will decide where they want to live.”

He made many remarks on the topic of drug policy during the World Economic Forum, which indicated a softening of his previously harsh stance on the criminalization of drugs: “After 40 years of the war on drugs, I can’t change what’s happened in the past. What I can do…is to implement policies that start us toward a decriminalization and keeps people from going to prison and destroying lives.”

While we appreciate the sentiment, Texas isn’t exactly known for its leniency towards cannabis offenders — possession of two ounces or less will land you in jail for up to 180 days with a fine of $2,000. Nice try, Rick, but put your money where your mouth is.

Canna-Support Meter: 3 out of 5

Presidential OG 3 out of 5 tiles


Scott Walker

Former Governor of Wisconsin Scott Walker claims the craziest thing he ever did in college was have a beer, and he used the example of a wedding reception to reject comparisons between cannabis and alcohol, saying, “Most folks with marijuana wouldn’t be sitting around a wedding reception smoking marijuana…I think there’s a big jump between having a beer and smoking marijuana.”

Oh boy, you’ve been going to the wrong weddings, Governor Walker. Any sort of full legalization would be highly unlikely in the event of a Walker presidency, but during his tenure as governor, he did sign a bill legalizing cannabidiol as treatment for seizure disorders.

Walker has also stated that, with additional support from fellow legislators, he might be open to open the possibility of future legalization. Alright, Walker. That is…acceptable.

Canna-Support Meter: 3 out of 5

Presidential OG 3 out of 5 tiles

Democratic Presidential Candidates


Hillary Clinton

Widely considered to be the front-runner for the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton is walking a fine line between appealing to her voters and alienating them. She will have none of that “I didn’t inhale” crap, saying outright that she’s never tried it and doesn’t plan on starting anytime soon.

During her 2008 campaign, Hillary made it clear that she had a fairly aggressive anti-cannabis stance, using the ol’ marijuana is a gateway drug comparison, but since then, she’s loosened her viewpoint along with the turning tide. She supports some medical usage of marijuana, although she clarified that “We need more studies. We need more evidence” in favor of medical marijuana.

As for recreational cannabis, she referred to legalized states as “laboratories of democracy,” indicating that she would not use her executive power to shut down legalization efforts.

Canna-Support Meter:

Presidential OG 3 out of 5 tiles


Bernie Sanders

Are you looking for a pro-cannabis candidate to support? Then Bernie just might win your vote! The Vermont senator is an Independent-leaning socialist from the Independent party. He may be 73 years old, but he’s incredibly progressive, as evidenced by his voting record – he’s sponsored the States’ Rights to Medical Marijuana Act, voted against subjecting federal employees to random drug tests, and has made major efforts to end the War on Drugs. His passion for ending the War on Drugs is unparalleled, as he stated his concern for nonviolent offenders:

“I have real concerns about the War on Drugs. We’ve been engaged in it for decades now with a huge cost and the destruction of a whole lot of lives of people who were never involved in any violent activities.”

Bernie has said that he does not believe that cannabis legalization is a major issue facing this country, however, he has indicated strongly that he will be running on a pro-cannabis legalization platform, but not because he himself partakes (on the contrary, he says he’s tried it twice but it did not agree with him), but because he wants to remove criminal penalties, lower the prison population and reduce the number of young people and people of color who have been disproportionately affected by cannabis arrests. Feel the Bern!

Canna-Support Meter: 5 out of 5

Five Leafly Presidential OG cannabis strain tiles


Jim Webb

Jim Webb, a former senator from Virgina, only just entered the Democratic race, but he just may be one of the most liberal candidates on cannabis policy. He supports the full decriminalization of drugs and believes in the approach of education and harm reduction over enforcement and incarceration.

During the National Sheriffs’ Association Conference in Baltimore, Webb spoke frankly on the issue:

“Just as in mental health issues, I don’t think it makes a lot of sense to put someone in jail when they have a disease, when they have an illness…There’ve got to be better ways for us to approach the issues of drug use in America.”

Webb used the example of cigarettes to get his point across, saying:

“We didn’t make cigarettes illegal. We just got the information out there and educated people about the potential harm. That is actually a success of education regarding your health, more than punitive law per se, and there have to be similar approaches when it comes to drug use.”

Bravo, Mr. Webb.

Canna-Support Meter: 5 out of 5

Five Leafly Presidential OG cannabis strain tiles


Martin O’Malley is a very intriguing candidate for cannabis policy. On the one hand, during his tenure as governor of Maryland, he decriminalized cannabis and signed the bill to legalize medical marijuana. However, he’s been fairly vocally opposed to legalization in Maryland, fearing it may lead to increased drug use.

When asked whether he would ever legalize marijuana outright in Maryland, he responded, “We can’t do that as a state. That would be something only the nation could do,” referring to Colorado’s legalization as an “experiment as a laboratory in democracy.” Hmmm…rather poetic.

Alright, so maybe he’s not down with legalization. But that’s still some pretty darn pro-cannabis rhetoric, and it will serve him well on the campaign trail.

Canna-Support Meter: 4 out of 5

Presidential OG 4 out of 5 tiles


Lincoln Chafee

This former governor of Rhode Island may not be a household name, but he’s got a great track record for cannabis. His stance on marijuana has evolved along with his other political beliefs – he began as a Republican and was elected as an Independent to be governor in 2010 before emerging on the other side as a Democrat in 2013. As governor, Chafee signed a decriminalization measure in Rhode Island and has expressed interest in the idea of marijuana legalization, if for no other reason than for the tax revenue. And with sound bites like “we should have the revenue go to infrastructure. Pot for potholes,” this guy certainly seems like he’s got an eye on cannabis legalization, particularly after listening to a speech from Colorado’s Governor Hickenlooper. Under his leadership, the cannabis movement could flourish!

Canna-Support Meter: 4 out of 5

Presidential OG 4 out of 5 tiles

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Lisa Rough

Lisa is a former associate editor at Leafly, where she specialized in legislative cannabis policy and industry topics.

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