Democratic Debate: How High Are The Candidates On Legalizing Marijuana?

Dustin Murrell

As Bernie Sanders continues to cut Hillary Clinton's lead en route to the Democratic presidential primaries, Martin O'Malley joins his fellow candidates for tonight's Democratic debate. While the candidates will have plenty to say about very serious issues like health care, immigration, and unemployment, a politician's stance on the use of medical marijuana and the legalization of recreational pot has become a more common issue of interest. Now that many states are legalizing medicinal (and sometimes recreational) marijuana, and members of Congress are introducing legislation to end the federal prohibition on medical cannabis, it's a question all candidates must have an answer for. Ahead of tonight's Democratic debate, here is a quick look at all three candidates' positions on marijuana laws.

Unlike her husband, front-runner Hillary Clinton hasn't even puffed a marijuana cigarette without inhaling. She does, however, take a very common Democratic position (which is also a very popular Republican position), in which she doesn't support legalization of marijuana, but does support the states' right to decide. As MSNBC reported, Hillary thinks marijuana should be reclassified from a Schedule 1 to Schedule 2 narcotic, which would distance it from illicit drugs like heroin. Instead, marijuana would be classified as a drug that has medical benefits, with potential for abuse.

Beginning June 1 of this year, Maryland will begin to issue medical marijuana licenses to patients and dispensaries. One reason that O'Malley and Clinton share in their opposition to legalizing marijuana is that they believe marijuana is a gateway drug. Both candidates do, however, support more research into the uses and effectiveness of medical marijuana, research which has been made more difficult with a Schedule 1 classification.

Senator Paul boycotted the most recent GOP debate after being invited to the "undercard" debate rather than the squaring off against such leading candidates as Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio. Instead, he was the guest on a tongue-in-cheek Singles Night edition of the GOP Debate on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. On The Daily Show, he expressed his beliefs that "there shouldn't be federal laws against most things," marijuana included. Johnson has made marijuana a central issue of his campaign.

The Democratic presidential candidate debate will air live tonight on NBC beginning at 9 p.m. EST. The Democratic debate can also be streamed online courtesy of NBC's YouTube page.

[Photo by AP Photo/Jim Cole]