Every Saturday, we have been running a series of blog posts that take a close look at the Democratic Party candidates for President in 2020. We examine each candidate’s historic approach to marijuana law and policy, and we also canvas their current respective stances on marijuana.
Over the past eight weeks, we covered Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Corey Booker, Beto O’Rourke and Andrew Yang. Today, we turn to Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar.
Stance on marijuana: Amy Klobuchar supports legalizing marijuana, as she told the Washington Post in February. However, she has never been at all vocal on this issue.
History: Like many of her fellow Democratic presidential candidates, Klobuchar’s stance on marijuana has evolved over her political career. Klobuchar began her career as County Attorney of Hennepin County. In a 1998 debate leading up to her election, Klobuchar made clear she opposed legalization:
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“I am opposed to the legalization of marijuana. I believe when you look across the world at what’s been happening, people have realized that legalizing drugs is not the answer.”
During her career as County Attorney, Klobuchar won a “tough on crime” reputation, imprisoning many individuals on drug convictions
Klobachur’s stance on cannabis has softened in the past couple years. Klobuchar was elected to the Senate in 2007, but only recently signed on to marijuana-related legislation. In 2018, she cosponsored the STATES Act, which if passed would protect states that choose to legalize marijuana (but would not end prohibition at the federal level). The same year, she also cosponsored legislation to increase research surrounding marijuana as well as to review whether CBD should remain on the controlled substances list. Unlike the rest of her fellow Democratic candidates in the Senate, however, Klobuchar did not sign on to The Marijuana Justice Act, which would legalize marijuana if passed.
Though this past February Klobuchar stated she supports legalizing cannabis, the word “cannabis” (or any of its synonyms) does not appear anywhere on her website or on her social media. Klobuchar’s plan for her first 100 days as president (which she links to on her website) does include starting “the evaluation process to reschedule marijuana.” Klobuchar’s website also addresses criminal justice reform where she promises to “create federal incentives so that states can restore some discretion from mandatory sentencing for nonviolent offenders.” Strangely, “restore some discretion” is a link to a CNN article with the headline “Amy Klobuchar says she supports legalizing marijuana.” Klobuchar also does not directly address the War on Drugs or federal legalization of cannabis
Conclusion: Klobuchar receives a “C+” grade because of her less than stellar history on cannabis and for her silence on legalization. Though Klobuchar stated support for legalizing marijuana, she obviously wants to distance herself from the issue by excluding any mention of marijuana from her social media and website. Klobuchar’s legislative history is also disappointing. Before 2018, the senator did not sponsor any bills related to marijuana. She has recently signed on to marijuana-related bills, but she is the only Democratic presidential candidate in the Senate who chose not to cosponsor The Marijuana Justice Act. Her pro-legalization stance, communicated in a single “statement” sent to The Washington Post, is not convincing. She comes across as having softened on legalization more for political reasons than out of any true commitment and she has done very little to demonstrate that she really wants to legalize marijuana.