Presidential Potential

The future of weed may rest in this election season’s presidential candidates

With legalization efforts poppinge up around the country, it might seem like recreational marijuana is certainly on its way to being a national norm. However, current medical and recreational marijuana policies only exist by the grace of the federal government.

The Obama administration has been lenient in persecuting states that have enacted medical and recreational marijuana plans, but that mostly stems from a hands-off approach to the states' prerogative in deciding their own policies.

Though, the lack of federal approval has not gone unnoticed. Last year, the Federal Reserve refused to accept any money connected to dispensaries in Arizona, Oregon, Washington and Colorado, creating a problem for the budding industry.

Since marijuana is still considered illegal under federal law, banks are legally barred from storing the billions of dollars generated by the industry.

The industry has found some ways around the issue with some credit unions operating under state approval deciding to cater to marijuana businesses. Though a few have been unable to open without the approval from the Fed for a master account necessary for their type of business.

Some see it as ludicrous that the Federal Reserve is able to regulate the industry in this way, but the Obama administration has been making strides in other areas.

Until recently, the University of Mississippi was the only institution allowed to grow pot for scientific research. But the Drug Enforcement Agency opened up license applications to other universities in August.

Now with the presidency in contention, candidates have the potential to shake up federal marijuana policy.

With many predicting Hillary Clinton to be a slightly less effective version of Obama, we can probably expect things to say relatively the same if she ends up in the White House. The Marijuana Policy Project gave her a grade of B+ for legalization efforts.

For many years, Clinton has been an advocate of medical marijuana research, but in true Hillary fashion, switched up her stance on recreational marijuana around 2014 to be more open to the idea of decriminalization. She took a page from Obama's playbook stating that "states are the laboratory for democracy," seemingly taking a similar hands-off approach to the subject.

As for Donald Trump, like most of his policies not involving a wall, his stance is anyone's guess. The MPP gave him a grade of C+ for potential legalization.

Bill O'Reilly pushed Trump on the subject during an interview in February in which Trump vaguely referred to issues in Colorado, said there were good and bad things about marijuana and ultimately told O'Reilly that he "really want[s] to think about that one." He is, however, "a 100 percent" in favor of medical marijuana.

Though this could be one of the things Trump folds on to appeal to the traditional republican demographic, he did tell the Miami Herald in 1990 that in order to win the war on drugs, we have to legalize drugs. To his credit, that is some real free market advocacy.

The two "wild cards," Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party and the Green Party's Jill Stein, both received unsurprising grades of A+ from the MPP.

Stein has been very vocal in her support for marijuana, both recreational and medical. On her website, she uses her doctor's credentials to profess that the only danger marijuana possess is legal.

Johnson received an endorsement from the MPP for his 17-year battle for legalization. He's also touted his own use of the substance as a medical patient and even ran a medical marijuana business.

His support for legalization predates his designation as a libertarian having first advocated for marijuana in 1999 as New Mexico's Republican governor.

Of course, there is one thing that may wrest control of federal marijuana policy away from our next president. As Johnson predicts, Obama could attempt to decriminalize marijuana before leaving office.

Under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, the Attorney General—currently Loretta Lynch—has the power reclassify drugs scheduled by the DEA.

As far as Arizona is concerned, with Gov. Doug Ducey's involvement with the Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy campaign consistent with his anti-pot agenda, any shift away from legalization could make the road to end prohibition just that much longer.

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