The Democratic debates have yet to feature cannabis

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The Democratic debates have yet to feature cannabis

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Thor Benson / Cannabis News Box Contributor

The first Democratic presidential debate that was hosted by NBC recently did not feature any discussion on cannabis legalization, and some people aren’t too happy about that. “I am absolutely disappointed that wasn’t an issue when you see voters turning out this issue all over the country,” Presidential candidate Cory Booker said.

Booker has one of the most expansive legalization plans among 2020 Democrats, and he explained that it would be wrong for the U.S. to legalize cannabis without doing something to help undo the harm done by the War on Drugs, especially to communities of color.

“I would like to see the federal government end it’s making marijuana illegal and pull back and let the states do what they want,” Booker said. “But I am also one of those people that thinks you cannot talk about marijuana legalization if in the same sentence you’re not talking about expunging the records of those Americans who have criminal convictions for doing things that two of the last three presidents admitted to doing.”

Sanho Tree, director of the Drug Policy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, told Cannabis News Box that most of the leading Democrats running for president are on the same page when it comes to cannabis policy. With the exception of Joe Biden, who favors decriminalization, all of the top candidates favor legalization and want to do something to help communities of color that have been harmed by prohibition.

“Joe Biden, who has a long history with the drug war, is getting poked on this issue,” Tree said. “When it comes to the general election, it will be a [debate] issue.”

Where Trump stands on this issue is pretty unclear. He’s indicated in the past that he might be willing to leave it to the states, at least when it comes to medical cannabis but maybe also with social use. That said, he keeps putting fierce drug warriors in the position of the attorney general. Tree said Trump “likes to have it both ways.”

“He’s a right-wing opportunist, and he sees this as a way of looking tough,” Tree said. Trump has often spoken about illicit drugs as one of society’s greatest threats, so it’s extremely difficult to imagine him signing a progressive legalization bill.

“We still have a huge number of drug arrests every year despite legalization,” Tree said. Until the federal government legalizes cannabis and stops allowing people to be arrested for simply possessing some cannabis, Tree said people will continue to go to jail for victimless crimes, and it will disproportionately be people of color who have been historically targeted by the War on Drugs.