cannabis candidates

2018 Midterm Elections: Our Ultimate State-By-State Guide To The Who’s Who Of Pro-Cannabis Candidates

This year, on November 6, the US midterm elections will include cannabis legalization measures in a number of US states. Utah and Missouri will vote on medical marijuana legalization initiatives, and North Dakota and Michigan will decide on ballot measures for adult-use cannabis. There are also plenty of US Senate seats up for grabs — hopefully seats that will be won by pro-cannabis candidates, in an effort to see more cannabis bills called for hearings at the federal level going forward.

The following is a list of pro-cannabis ballot initiatives and candidates for US Senate nationwide.

Arizona

US Senate Candidates

Kyrsten Sinema (Democrat): NORML reports that Sinema has issued statements calling for the federal government to allow state programs to operate without interference and for increased access to medical marijuana for US veterans.

Angela Green (Green Party): Green’s website confirms that she is pro-cannabis legalization and research.

California

US Senate Candidate

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D): After decades as a drug war supporter, Feinstein’s views have evolved on supporting states’ rights to set their own cannabis policy. Last September, the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee member also signed on as a co-sponsor of a cannabis descheduling bill. In the past, Feinstein has also voted in support of legislation to override the prohibition of the US Department of Veterans Affairs, allowing doctors to recommend cannabis to vets in states that have medical marijuana policy in place.

Connecticut

US Senate Candidate

Chris Murphy (D): In 2016, according to NORML, Murphy signed on to a letter, penned by a group of senators and addressed to President Obama, about medical marijuana research. The letter states:

We write to request your help in removing the administrative barriers to scientific research on medical treatments derived from the cannabis plant, also known as “medical marijuana.” We have heard from numerous patients across the U.S. and parents whose children have treatment-resistant conditions about the benefits they have experienced from using cannabis to treat serious illnesses.

Florida

US Senate Candidates

Bill Nelson (D): Nelson is in favor of medical marijuana consumption. “I don’t want a government or a politician to get in the way of a doctor recommending what should be the treatment, the medical treatment, for that doctor’s patient,” Nelson said, according to the Tampa Bay Times. “That’s just not right, and therefore, yes, I support, and have with my vote, medical marijuana recommended by a physician.”

Michael S. Levinson (Independent): He is in favor of decriminalization of cannabis. According to his website, Levinson has said, “Were I president today, by Exeutive [sic] Order, all the people languishing in jail because of drug violations, related to marijuana, would be pardoned. This clipper ship program needs to be in place so there are potential jobs waiting for these people, too, whether they are pardoned or released after they complete their sentence!”

Governor Candidates 

The race between Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (D) and Rep. Ron DeSantis (Republican) is a battle between an advocate of legalized regulation (Gillum) and a staunch prohibitionist of recreational cannabis (DeSantis). Whoever replaces outgoing Gov. Rick Scott will have a lot of sway over the state’s emerging medical marijuana system, as well as over any possible adult-use legalization campaign. “Legalize it. Tax it,” Gillum tweeted earlier this year. “Use the revenue to fix Florida’s public schools and move us up from 29th in the nation to #1.”

Georgia

Governor Candidate

Stacey Abrams (D): She wants to decriminalize cannabis possession, saying on her website, “Georgia will decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, meaning no jail time for possession of small amounts. Additionally, as Georgia has already allowed the use of cannabis oil, we support cannabis oil and medical marijuana cultivation and will address those recommendations in the upcoming health platform.”

Hawaii

US Senate Candidate

Mazie Hirono (D): Hirono is pro states’ rights when it comes to cannabis. Earlier this year, she signed on to a letter with a bipartisan group of senators and addressed to the chairman and vice chairman of the US Senate Committee on Appropriations, urging Senate appropriators to respect state laws when it comes to cannabis regulations.

Idaho

Governor Candidate

Paulette Jordan (D): In this historically conservative/anti-cannabis state, Jordan appears to be the lone pro-marijuana candidate arguing for legalization.

Illinois

Governor Candidate

J.B. Pritzker (D): On his website, Pritzker says, “The path forward for Illinois is clear: we need to legalize marijuana. As governor, I am ready to stand with leaders, communities, and families across our state to legalize marijuana and move our state forward.”

Maine

US Senate Candidates

Zackary Ringelstein (D): Ringelstein supports the legalization of marijuana in Maine and also has called for ending federal cannabis prohibition. His campaign platform calls for “decriminalizing drug use, and, retroactively, non-violent drug-related offenses.”

Eric Brakey (R): In 2016, he supported Question 1, Maine Marijuana Legalization, the ballot measure that legalized and regulated the adult use of cannabis in Maine. At the federal level, Brakey has said he believes cannabis legalization is a states’ rights issue and that “when it comes to matters like cannabis policy, the federal government needs to step out of the way and let states make their own choices.”

Maryland

US Senate Candidate

Arvin Vohra (Libertarian Party): Controversial candidate Vohra has a lot of questionable platforms, but he is for legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana. He opposes the statement that cannabis is a gateway drug, saying that “if elected, I will sponsor legislation to end the war on drugs. I want drugs to be as legal as tomatoes, so that drug businesses can settle disputes by calling their credit card companies, instead of resorting to violence.”

Massachusetts

US Senate Candidate

Elizabeth Warren (D): A pro-cannabis legalization candidate, Warren has co-sponsored many key cannabis bills, openly voicing her dismay with the lack of banking and financial services available to the cannabis industry, due to federal oversight. “States like Massachusetts have put a lot of work into implementing common sense marijuana regulations,” she’s said. “This reckless action by the DOJ disrupts the ability of states to enforce their own drug policies and puts our public health and safety at risk. … Congress needs to take immediate action to protect state marijuana laws and the patients that rely on them.”

Michigan

Proposal 18-1, Adult Use: The proposed initiative law would authorize and legalize personal possession, consumption, and cultivation of cannabis products by individuals 21 years of age and older, and commercial sales and taxation of marijuana through state-licensed retailers. It allows individuals 21 and older to purchase, possess and consume cannabis and marijuana-infused edibles, and grow up to 12 marijuana plants in their home for personal consumption. Revenue would be devoted to regulatory costs, clinical research, schools, roads, and municipalities where cannabis businesses are located.

US Senate Candidates

Marcia T. Squier (Green Party): She scores a high A grade with NORML’s Smoke the Vote rating for pro-cannabis candidates, having said last year, according to On The Issues, “Cannabis is a life-saving drug and must be fully, retroactively legalized. In fact, the entire War on Drugs must end, treating drug addictions as a medical issue as opposed to a criminal one.”

Debbie Stabenow (D): Stabenow is a pro-weed candidate, having told Vice via her spokesperson, “It’s time to decriminalize medical and recreational marijuana. It’s also important to move forward thoughtfully and work closely with law enforcement, public health officials, business leaders and communities to ensure we get this right and avoid unintended consequences.”

Minnesota

US Senate Candidates

Paula M. Overby (Green Party), Dennis Schuller (Legal Marijuana Now party) and Sarah Wellington (Legal Marijuana Now party): All three candidates have been given an A grade by NORML and are for legalizing, taxing and regulating cannabis. On her personal website, Overby has said:

The misguided war on drugs has resulted in little more than the creation of a militarized police force that focuses on the incarceration of low-level drug users that feeds the for-profit prison industry and is waged primarily in communities of color and oppressive poverty, rather than addressing the root causes of this crisis. It is time to end the masquerade. We are not winning and we are suffering enormous casualties. This misguided initiative is clearly not providing us any relief from what is essentially a public health crisis.

Mississippi

US Senate Candidates

David Baria (D): According to the Jackson Free Press, Baria said earlier this year, “I can tell you without reservation that I am in favor of legalizing medical marijuana that can be prescribed while under a doctor’s care. I know that medical marijuana has benefits for patients suffering from PTSD and for folks experiencing pain, like cancer patients.”

Danny K. Bedwell (Libertarian Party): Bedwell gets an A grade with NORML’s Smoke the Vote rating for pro-cannabis candidates and is for legalizing, taxing and regulating medical and recreational cannabis.

Missouri

Amendment 2, Medical; Amendment 3, Medical; Proposition C, Medical: Missouri has three competing medical marijuana measures on the ballot. All three would legalize growing, manufacturing, selling and consuming cannabis and cannabis products for medicinal use at the state level. Amendment 2 and Prop. C would each use a portion of the funds from taxes for health and care services for military veterans. Amendment 3 would use funds from taxes to establish and fund a state research institute to conduct research with the purpose of developing cures and treatments for cancer and other incurable diseases or medical conditions.

US Senate Candidate

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D): McCaskill believes that medical cannabis should be approved in Missouri, though she declined to endorse a specific initiative. McCaskill has also talked about the potential therapeutic benefits of cannabis for seniors: “I don’t think there are enough seniors that realize that there are some therapeutic benefits to medical marijuana.”

Montana

US Senate Candidate

Jon Tester (D): During a House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs meeting earlier this year, Tester said, “Veterans must have a say in how they manage their pain and the VA needs to listen to those veterans who are finding relief in medicinal cannabis.”

Nebraska

US Senate Candidate

Jane M. Raybould (D): According to Net Nebraska, Raybould recognizes that medical cannabis “has been proven effective and could even help stem the reliance on prescription opioids.”

Nevada

US Senate Candidate

Jacky Rosen (D): According to Rosen’s official website, she’s been quoted as saying: “I believe it’s time to end the federal prohibition on marijuana, start regulating this product like alcohol, and get rid of barriers for states like ours where voters have made this decision to move forward. That’s why I’m supporting this commonsense legislation, and I will continue to fight to protect and support the marijuana industry here in Nevada.”

New Jersey

US Senate Candidate

Murray Sabrin (Libertarian Party): On his website, Sabrin states:

The DEA’s drug scheduling system categorizes marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance – worse than Cocaine – listing marijuana as a drug “with no currently accepted medical use.” That is a lie! Multiple studies have shown the health benefits of marijuana. I plan to remove marijuana from Schedule 1 status of the Controlled Substances Act and allow individuals the freedom to buy marijuana or grow their own. Adults should not be forced to buy expensive pharmaceuticals when they can grow their own medicine.

New Mexico

US Senate Candidates

Martin Heinrich (D): According to NORML, Heinrich supports states being able to use medical marijuana with a prescription from a doctor.

Gary Johnson (Libertarian Party): Former presidential candidate Johnson, who has long campaigned for decriminalization of cannabis, believes that people, not politicians, should make choices in their personal lives, as long as harm is not done to others. NORML reports that Johnson believes “legalizing marijuana will lead to less overall substance abuse because people are going to find it a safer alternative than everything else out here, starting with alcohol.”

New York

US Senate Candidate

Kirsten Gillibrand (D): Gillibrand said the growing acceptance of medical marijuana among the public makes her hopeful that the law will continue to gain bipartisan support. She credited personal stories from those who have benefited from medical cannabis as the reason for the shift in public opinion, with Roll Call reporting Gillibrand as saying, “These stores are the difference, because when you talk about how it affects your child and how their lives are so significantly better, it’s irrefutable. It is so compelling. I believe things are changing and they are changing fast.”

North Dakota

Measure 3, Adult Use: This measure would remove hashish, marijuana and tetrahydrocannabinols (THC) from the list of Schedule I controlled substances and “prohibit prosecution of any person over the age of 21 for any non-violent marijuana related activity (including growing, manufacturing, distributing, selling, or testing marijuana) or drug paraphernalia relating to any non-violent marijuana activity, except for the sale of marijuana to a person under the age of 21.” It would also require the automatic expungement of the record of an individual who has a drug conviction for a controlled substance that has been legalized, and create an appeals process for an individual who believes the state did not expunge a record properly.

Ohio

Issue 1: Decriminalization of Felony Drug & Paraphernalia Possession: The issue seeks to provide neighborhood safety, drug treatment, and rehabilitation for consumers of illegal drugs and reduce penalties for crimes of obtaining, possessing and using illegal drugs. An extreme approach for an extreme situation, the ballot issue mandates that criminal offenses of obtaining, possessing or using any drug such as fentanyl, heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, LSD and other controlled substances cannot be classified as a felony, but only a misdemeanor.

US Senate Candidate

Sherrod Brown (D): He’s made some lukewarm pro-statements. “While it is important to consider the potential medical benefits of marijuana, particularly for terminally ill patients whose quality of life may hinge on effective pain management, there are risks associated with making marijuana legally available,” said Brown, who also believes cannabis is a “gateway drug.”

Pennsylvania

US Senate Candidates

Neal Gale (Green Party): Gale says on his website, “I will support national legislation that legalizes cannabis for medical, recreational and commercial manufacturing use. I believe continuing the criminalization of cannabis is indefensible.”

Dale R. Kerns, Jr. (Libertarian Party): Kerns says on his website under a section titled War on Drugs:

As your United States Senator, I will fight for a system which addresses addiction as the medical problem it is, rather than a criminal issue. I will end the federal prohibition on marijuana and work to create a system like in Portugal or Switzerland, where drug use is not romanticized, but those with substance issues are given requisite care and empathy in their battles to overcome addiction.

Bob Casey, Jr. (D): According to Civilized, Casey supports states’ rights, saying, “Given the unprecedented opioid crisis, the Department of Justice should focus its resources on targeting violent drug dealers and criminal gangs, not individuals operating under doctors’ instructions. States should be given the flexibility to determine the best policy for their communities.”

Rhode Island

US Senate Candidate

Sheldon Whitehouse (D): Even as far back as 2013, Whitehouse was quoted as saying to GoLocal, “We know that marijuana can provide relief for patients suffering from serious illnesses. I applaud Rhode Island’s effort to make it available for that purpose.”

Tennessee

US Senate Candidate

Sara Kyle (D): Kyle has sponsored legislation to decriminalize cannabis up to one ounce, and in 2016 sponsored legislation to put the senate bill, titled, “Should the Tennessee legislature approve the use of medical marijuana?” up for vote.

Governor

Karl Dean (D): This pro-medical-marijuana gubernatorial candidate is of interest because he’s going up against candidate Bill Lee (R) who scored a D- with NORML for his unfriendly stance when it comes to cannabis. Dean, on the other hand, has Tweeted that “if medical cannabis is something that will alleviate an ill person’s suffering, the government shouldn’t stand in the way.”

Texas candidate Beto O’Rourke believes cannabis should be fully legalized and taxed.

Texas

US Senate Candidates

Beto O’Rourke (D): NORML says that “O’Rourke wants to end the drug war. He believes marijuana should be fully legalized and taxed. In an interview with Texas NORML Beto said he is proud to be endorsed by NORML PAC, and yet Beto still refuses a single dime of corporate PAC money accepting only small donations to represent Texas and marijuana reform.”

Neal M. Dikeman (Libertarian Party): Dikeman, who has an A grade from NORML, wants to see the plant legalized, taxed and regulated.

Utah

Proposition 2, Medical Use: The proposition would establish a state-controlled process that allows individuals with qualifying medical conditions — including cancer, HIV/AIDS, epilepsy, chronic pain, Lou Gehrig’s disease or ALS, Alzheimer’s disease, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder and autism — to obtain and consume medical cannabis through a doctor’s recommendation, similar to 31 other such US state programs. It would also authorize the establishment of facilities that grow, process, test or sell medical cannabis and require those facilities to be licensed by the state.

US Senate Candidate

Jenny Wilson (D): According to The Salt Lake Tribune, Wilson has said it’s “ridiculous” that cannabis remains on the Schedule I list of controlled substances, and faulted Utah’s senators and representatives for failing to take action. “It’s another example of six Republicans in our [federal] delegation who are, frankly, out of touch.”

Vermont

US Senate Candidate

Bernie Sanders (Independent): Former presidential candidate Sanders has cosponsored a host of cannabis legislation and is also a co-sponsor of the Marijuana Justice Act. He says he supports medical marijuana as well as an end to the federal prohibition of cannabis.

Virginia

US Senate Candidate

Tim Kaine (D): Together with Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Kaine introduced the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act, which seeks to remove cannabis from the list of scheduled substances under the Controlled Substances Act, effectively decriminalizing it at the federal level. He is also pro-medical marijuana. NORML gives Kaine an A+ rating as a pro-cannabis candidate.

Washington

US Senate Candidate

Maria Cantwell (D): Cantwell is pro-states’ rights and last year signed on to a bipartisan letter addressed to US Attorney General Jeff Sessions expressing concern that the Trump administration may begin enforcing federal law in states that have legalized cannabis. The letter asks the US Department of Justice to clarify the Trump administration’s policy on law enforcement in states that have legalized the recreational use of marijuana.

West Virginia

US Senate Candidate

Rusty Hollen (Libertarian Party): Hollen said in a NORML candidate questionnaire that he “supports full federal legalization with regulations being placed at the state level for responsible sale and use.”

Wisconsin

US Senate Candidate

Tammy Baldwin (D): According to NORML, Baldwin has been a longtime supporter of medical marijuana, dating back to her days in the State Assembly, and has been consistently supportive of pro-cannabis amendments, including ones in favor of access to veterans, safe banking, and protection of state medical marijuana programs.

Wyoming

US Senate Candidate

Gary Trauner (D): Trauner, who is said to be in favor of legalization, has been quoted as saying, “It’s time we put this battle behind us. There are hundreds of thousands if not millions of law-abiding Americans including veterans, cancer patients and chronic pain patients who use marijuana to alleviate their pain and symptoms. Let’s allow them to move out of the shadows and openly take care of their health care needs without worrying about breaking outdated laws based on antiquated thinking.”

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