Where Do America’s Political Parties Stand on Cannabis?

How are the major parties leaning these days in regards to legalization or other cannabis-related issues?

These broad manifestos don’t always turn into passed laws, but they are an excellent indicator of how party ideologies may be shifting and which issues will be their top priorities

Now that all of the major political parties have held their virtual conventions, announced their candidates and turned their attention to the November State and General Elections, it’s time to look into where these groups stand when it comes to cannabis in 2020.

Because the U.S. is a representative republic where states not only set policy within their own borders but also contribute to decisions on federal laws, there are simply far too many races and candidates for us to devote sufficient attention to them all. Instead, we’ll focus broadly on the most notable political parties and examine their positions and ideas via the documents they draft specifically to highlight the issues most central to their respective visions for America: party platforms. 

A party platform or program is a collective statement of agreed upon policy ideas and goals that members of the party will support or pursue on behalf of their constituents. These broad manifestos don’t always turn into passed laws, but they are an excellent indicator of how party ideologies may be shifting and which issues will be their top priorities. 

So what stances are parties taking to when it comes to cannabis? Let’s go party by party to see what’s in their individual platforms.

The Green Party Platform

The Green Party’s platform was approved at their July 2020 convention and contains what they call “The Four Pillars,” which include Democracy, Social Justice, Ecology, and Peace. These pillars serve as the foundation for more specific initiatives that the members of the Green Party believe are necessary to address issues facing America. 

All mentions of cannabis or marijuana found within the platform come under the second pillar, Social Justice, beginning with the Introduction section: 

“Our criminal justice system assigns long prison terms to hundreds of thousands of perpetrators of victimless crimes, such as selling marijuana.”

They return to this idea in section H. Criminal Justice, subsection 4. End the War on Drugs, where they call for funding to be redirected to research and education, drug use to be decriminalized, and state the following party demands:

Legalize possession, sale, and cultivation of cannabis/marijuana.”

“Strike from the record prior felony convictions for marijuana possession, sale, or cultivation.”

“Grant amnesty and release from confinement without any further parole or probation, those who have been incarcerated for the use, sale, or cultivation of marijuana….”

Additional mentions of cannabis and marijuana within the Green Party Platform include calls for research into the effects of recreational and medicinal substances like cannabis on developing brains. The party also states they will establish a single-payer health care system that incorporates medical marijuana into wellness education initiatives. 

Interestingly, The Green Party’s is the only platform that mentions hemp, in which they call for growing the crop as a renewable replacement for forest products and state they would mandate hemp fiber to be a primary source for “archival quality paper” in government offices.

The Libertarian Party Platform

As may be expected, the Green Party mentions cannabis-related issues more than any other platform. Conversely, the libertarians do not mention cannabis or marijuana at all in their platform, which was adopted in 2018 and not altered prior to its reapproval at the party’s July 2020 national convention. 

There is, however, some overlap between the Greens’ position and that of the Libertarian Party. In their platform, they state in section 1. Personal Liberty subsection 7. Criminal Justice: 

Laws should be limited in their application to violations of the rights of others through force or fraud, or to deliberate actions that place others involuntarily at significant risk of harm. Therefore, we favor the repeal of all laws creating “crimes” without victims, such as gambling, the use of drugs for medicinal or recreational purposes….

While broader in language, this position from their platform is similar to other parties in that it suggests the party would move to decriminalize cannabis, among other substances, and seek to reverse some of the harms caused by the war on drugs.

The Democratic Party Platform

The Democratic National Committee enlisted 15 party members from across the nation to sit on their 2020 Platform Drafting Committee. This group was responsible for engaging with party stakeholders and working class Americans to outline the Democratic Party’s vision for “a better future for all.” 

In the 2020 Democratic Party Platform, which was formally adopted by the party at their August national convention, cannabis and marijuana are addressed in a section titled Protecting Communities and Building Trust by Reforming Our Criminal Justice System. In this section they state that the War on Drugs “has imprisoned millions of Americans–disproportionately Black people and Latinos–and hasn’t been effective in reducing drug use.” 

Relating this issue specifically to cannabis they state:

Democrats will decriminalize marijuana use and reschedule it through executive action on the federal level. We will support legalization of medical marijuana, and believe states should be able to make their own decisions about recreational use.

The platform also includes the position that “Democrats believe no one should be in prison solely because they use drugs.” As this ideas pertains to cannabis it states:

All past criminal convictions for cannabis use should be automatically expunged.

These mentions of cannabis and marijuana in their platform, and where they’re included, indicate that Democrats see cannabis primarily as a criminal justice issue. 

The Republican Party Platform

Citing issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Republican National Committee chose to reuse the party’s 2016 Republican Platform for the 2020 election season. 

This platform does include positions on criminal justice reform such as trying nonviolent drug offenders in separate courts to focus on rehabilitation, while the sole mention of marijuana is as follows:

In many jurisdictions, marijuana is virtually legalized despite its illegality under federal law. At the other end of the drug spectrum, heroin use nearly doubled from 2003 to 2013, while deaths from heroin have quadrupled. All this highlights the continuing conflicts and contradictions in public attitudes and public policy toward illegal substances. Congress and a new administration should consider the long range implications of these trends for public health and safety and prepare to deal with the problematic consequences.”

The party did adopt a Resolution Regarding the Republican Party Platform at their August national convention, but this document did not include any references to cannabis, marijuana, DEA scheduled substances, or other drugs. 

Each party’s platform includes significant details about many policy positions beyond those related to cannabis. We’ve included links to each full form platform document or webpage above so that voters may read through and fully examine each party’s nuanced stances on the issue facing our country in preparation for voting this November.

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