When it comes to marijuana, the Elizabeth Warren of 2012 would probably not recognize the Elizabeth Warren of 2019.
Seven years ago, Warren opposed legalization. In 2015, the senator from Massachusetts said she was “open” to it. In 2016, she said, she voted for it privately at the ballot box. Now she’s one of marijuana’s top cheerleaders on Capitol Hill, championing a measure to protect the pot industry in states where it’s legal.
Warren’s evolution is not unique — in fact, 2020 will see the first presidential race in which every candidate, at least so far, favors some path to legalization.
All 12 official Democratic candidates, as well as the potential Republican hopeful and former Massachusetts governor William F. Weld, told the Globe they now support full nationwide legalization, Canada-style.
President Trump, meanwhile, has said he supports states’ rights to legalize.
“There’s been a tremendous evolution — marijuana legalization, if you look back, was really something for fringe candidates,” said John Lapp, a Democratic national campaign strategist.“It’s just not very controversial at all now.”
For Democrats, especially, being for cannabis legalization might be as much of a litmus test in 2020 among voters as supporting abortion rights. But they must face their past stances with honesty, political strategists say. In 2008, now-Senator Kamala Harris touted her high conviction rates for drug dealers as a district attorney, and Joe Biden, the former vice president — who is likely to run, but hasn’t announced — was long an evangelist for the war on drugs.
A quarter-century ago, then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton did damage control by saying he tried pot while he was a Rhodes scholar in England, but “didn’t inhale.”Running in 2007, Barack Obama found it politically acceptable to admit he had smoked marijuana as a young man, and “the point was to inhale” — but he called it “a mistake.”