Could Marijuana Money Elect The Next U.S. President

With the marijuana business ballooning into a $3 billion powerhouse almost overnight, more politicians have begun to court the industry’s campaign contributions.

Four states and the District of Columbia have already legalized marijuana and 23 other states have eased restrictions signaling the nation is ready for a change. The question remains how powerful will the industry eventually become and what influence will they be able to muster?

Already, politicians have been forced to take public stances on marijuana, a drug still classified as Schedule 1 by the federal government and therefore of no redeeming value.

The National Cannabis Industry Association has become the second biggest contributor to Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul’s piggy bank, according to OpenSecrets.org. So far NCIA has donated $12,000 to the candidate.

The $3 billion marijuana industry is growing in popularity

During a closed door NCIA fundraiser in June, 40 donors paid $2,700 each for time with Paul marking him as the first presidential candidate to actively court the marijuana industry. Rand’s Super PACs have received even more donations including $1.25 million from angel investor and marijuana rights activist Scott Banister.

The marijuana industry supports Rand Paul because of his promise to leave them alone. He’s a big supporter of states rights and their ability to regulate marijuana how they choose. In his role as Kentucky senator Rand is the only candidate who has worked to reform marijuana laws including his sponsorship of a bill designed to end the federal war on medical marijuana.

He is actively working to reform the justice system to ensure non-violent drug related offenses don’t send a citizen to jail for life, according to Green Rush Investors.

“I’m not really promoting legalization, but I am promoting making the penalties much less severe and not putting people in jail for 10, 20, 30 years. I would let states choose. And I don’t know what’ll happen, whether it’s going to end up being good or bad. But I would let the states choose because I believe in federalism and states’ rights.”

Hillary Clinton came out against marijuana during the Democratic debate saying the drug should remain illegal. She did add, however, that citizens shouldn’t be jailed for its use; she also said more research was needed.

Some political candidates support states right to decide marijuana policy.

Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders sided with marijuana advocates during the Democratic debate. He said the criminal justice system jails too many African Americans for non-violent drug offenses.

Billionaire Donald Trump remains publicly undecided on the issue. While a supporter of states rights The Donald has also publicly said he is against legalization. He’s also publicly said he supports medical marijuana and is against the war on drugs.

Ben Carson has come out as a supporter of medical marijuana, but has also said he’s against recreational use and wants to continue the war on drugs.

Ted Cruz also favors the state’s rights to choose and has co-sponsored a bill to give judges more flexibility in sentencing criminals for non-violent drug related offenses.

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Carly Fiorina, who lost her step -daughter to drug abuse, has come out against the legalization of marijuana, but she also supports the state’s right to choose.

Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal and Jim Gilmore have all come out against legalizing marijuana.

It’s unclear what Lindsey Graham’s position is, as the senator has made statements supporting medical marijuana, but then voted against it at least three times.

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More than 53 percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana, including 68 percent of millennials, according to a recent Pew Research report.

The 2016 election will see the next president of the United States elected, but it may also usher in a slew of new states legalizing marijuana within their borders.

[Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]