A hot-button topic for the 2018 midterm elections — set for November 6, now seven months away — looks to be repeat from previous elections, that of marijuana legalization by state.
Marijuana legalization is shaping up to be a talked-about issue again because support for the idea is higher than ever: In of January, a Pew Research poll found that 61 percent of Americans thought that the use of the substance should be legalized. While it still remains illegal and is controversially classified as a Schedule 1 drug under federal law, recreational use of marijuana is legal in nine states and 19 states have OK’d medical marijuana. Whether not marijuana legalization increases in 2018 partly comes down to the politicians Americans decide to support.
Here’s a selection of politicians who are pro-cannabis, in some form, on the ballot for the 2018 midterm elections.
J.B. Pritzker: Illinois Gubernatorial Candidate
How he’d use marijuana tax cash: Pritzker says he wants to “reinvest in communities hit hardest by the war on drugs and the legacy of mass incarceration.” He also wants to “intentionally include black and brown entrepreneurs” in planning new dispensaries.
On March 20, billionaire venture capitalist J.B. Pritzker beat out the other candidates in the primary election to become the Democratic contender for Illinois’ next governor. He’ll face Republican Governor Bruce Rauner in the general election in November.
One area where Pritzker and Rauner differ is the legalization of recreational marijuana, with Pritkzer supporting. On his campaign site, Pritzker — whos has admitted to smoking bud in his youth — argues that legalizing the drug can help reform the state’s “broken criminal justice system,” can help reduce opioid overdoses, and bring in revenue from taxation. He also emphasizes that he wants to use that revenue to put funds towards communities most affected by the decades-long war on drugs.
“We must review and commute the sentences of people incarcerated for marijuana offenses in Illinois,” the Chicago-based entrepreneur said on the campaign trail. “It’s time to bring the era of mass incarcerations for minor drug offenses to an end.”
Dana Nessel: Michigan Attorney General Candidate
How she’d use marijuana tax cash: Vessel has said in interviews that she would use the revenue to invest in things like “roads” and “schools.”
On November 6, Michigan residents will get to vote for their next attorney general. One candidate is Dana Nessel, an attorney who is known for her work to legalize same-sex marriage. She’s also the candidate of choice for pro-marijuana advocates in Michigan: Nessel began her race with marijuana legalization as one of her six platforms, while her Democratic component Patrick Miles only recently said he was pro-legalization.
It’s a good look for either candidate hoping to win — 61 percent of Michigan voters currently support legalization. Legislation to regulate medical marijuana was passed in September 2016, but as of now the state still hasn’t licensed a single medical marijuana business.
“Michigan needs common-sense licensing and regulation of cannabis manufacturing and distribution,” Nessel has said. “When elected, I will work with the legislature and local law enforcement to ensure a safe market that keeps cannabis out of kids hands and off the roads.”
Alec Ross: Maryland Gubernatorial Candidate
How he’d use marijuana tax cash: Ross has said he wants to invest a portion the anticipated $200-300 million a year in tax revenue into “dedicated funding” programs related to reform, including resources to train law enforcement, public education about drug safety, and medical research in drug abuse and mental health issues.
While Alec Ross isn’t currently doing too well in the polls, the Maryland-governor hopeful is the first pick by pro-marijuana advocates. The former Senior Advisor for Innovation to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lists marijuana legalization as one of his key initiatives and has released a white paper detailing his case for legalization. “Maryland needs a new, bold leader who fights to provide justice for all,” Ross said on Twitter very early in his campaign. “That’s why today I’m pushing us to legalize marijuana because it is the right thing to do. It provides joint benefits — social justice and economic opportunity.”
Liz Watson: Indiana U.S. House of Representatives Candidate
How she’d use marijuana tax cash: Watson supports the legalization of medical marijuana, and has not commented on the legalization of recreational marijuana, the latter which would bring in tax revenue.
On May 8, voters in Indiana’s 9th Congressional District will get to decide whether Democratic candidate Liz Watson will be able to compete in the general election in November. While the primarily red state has taken small steps in legalizing medical marijuana, the drug still far from mainstream endorsement. Watson, however, advocates for the legalization of medical marijuana as part of her campaign, arguing that science supports its usage for sick patients.
“We do not need the federal government restricting study into the medical uses of marijuana, Watson told Politico in February. “Federal law currently categorizes marijuana as a Schedule 1 narcotic, along with heroin, while oxycodone is Schedule 2. That makes no sense.”
Andrew Gillum: Florida Gubernatorial Candidate
How he’d use marijuana tax cash: On Twitter, Gillum expressed that he would use marijuana tax revenue to invest in Florida’s public schools.
The current mayor of Tallahassee Andrew Gillum is, as of now, the only Floridian gubernatorial candidate to advocate for the full legalization of marijuana and the only candidate to criticize U.S. Attorney General Jeff Session’s decision to rescind the Obama-era memos that prohibited federal prosecution of marijuana-friendly state laws.
“Legalize it. Tax it,” he commented on Twitter in January. “Use the revenue to fix Florida’s public schools and move us up from 29th in the nation to #1.”
Gillum argues that responsible legalization can bring needed tax revenue to the “Sunshine State” and calls for its decriminalization. “While people of every walk of life smoke marijuana, the criminal penalties for doing so are far less equal,” Gillum argued in January. “He has made his goal crystal clear: put more young people and people of color behind bars.”
Voters will get to decide whether they agree with Gillum when the gubernatorial primary elections happens on August 28.