Grading the Democratic Presidential Candidates on Marijuana: Pete Buttigieg
Each Saturday, we have been running a series of blog posts that take a close look at each of the Democratic Party candidates for President in 2020. We examine each candidate’s historic approach to marijuana law and policy, and we also canvas their current respective stances on marijuana.
Stance on marijuana: Pete Buttigieg supports legalizing marijuana and expunging criminal records of marijuana-related drug convictions. On his website, Buttigieg’s criminal justice reform platform focuses on mass incarceration and racial disparities in the justice system. To this end, he expresses his intention to “legalize marijuana and address the harmful effects of its criminalization.”
History: Buttigieg’s record on marijuana legislation is limited. As mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Buttigieg has not signed any legislation related to marijuana. This is not surprising considering Indiana has yet to legalize marijuana, even for medical use. See also, State of Cannabis: Indiana.
In addition to his lack of any legislative history on cannabis, the issue seems to be only a peripheral part of his platform. This past June, Buttigieg did criticize Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds for vetoing a medical marijuana expansion bill on Twitter, but this is one of his only posts on social media about marijuana.
However, when asked about his views on marijuana in interviews, Buttigieg has clearly expressed his support for cannabis legalization. He correctly asserts that legalization is what the majority of Americans want, including those in his home state of Indiana.
Buttigieg has also asserted the importance of not only ending the War on Drugs, but supporting those released from prison. As stated on his website, this support would include community-based reentry programs. Buttigieg also plans to, “on the federal level, eliminate incarceration for drug possession, reduce sentences for other drug offenses and apply these reductions retroactively, legalize marijuana and expunge past convictions.”
Conclusion: Buttigieg receives a “B+” grade. Over the course of his short and mostly innocuous political career, Buttigieg has not accumulated enough of a record on marijuana to determine the depth of his convictions regarding cannabis, but he has consistently stood for legalization since announcing his presidential candidacy. We do downgrade him though for not actively addressing legalization on social media, which seems to indicate that this issue is not a high priority for him. In his favor, Buttigieg has openly supported legalization and his plan to address the War on Drugs and its aftermath is quite comprehensive.