Grading the Presidential Candidates on Marijuana: Julián Castro
Every Saturday, we have been running a series of blog posts that take a close look at 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.
Over the past nine weeks, we covered Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Corey Booker, Beto O’Rourke, Andrew Yang and Amy Klobuchar. Today, we turn to Julián Castro, former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and former Mayor of San Antonio.
Stance on marijuana: Julián Castro supports legalizing marijuana and expunging records of past marijuana convictions as he said at a town hall in April.
History: Prior to his pro-legalization statement in April, Castro had remained relatively ambivalent on the issue of marijuana. Under Castro, HUD issued a statement reaffirming its policy of allowing property owners to evict marijuana users in federally assisted housing facilities. Other than this statement, however, Castro lacks much of a legislative record (or any other record) on marijuana. In 2014 (five months before his appointment as HUD secretary), Castro expressed uncertainty about whether he supported legalizing marijuana:
I haven’t looked at the science yet about addiction and what it means, but it’s certainly something that I think deserves more scrutiny and more analysis.
Castro’s website does not mention marijuana. Though Castro does address some aspects of criminal justice reform through his platform on policing, important topics such as the War on Drugs, legalizing marijuana, and sentencing reform are nowhere to be found on his website.
To his credit, Castro has expressed his views on marijuana on social media. In 2017, he criticized the Trump administration for threatening to crack down on states that legalized marijuana, writing in a Facebook post:
The federal government should focus its resources on more serious crimes. Not only that, growing evidence from Colorado and other states suggests we can sensibly legalize marijuana use with reasonable controls in place. State voters should have that power.
This past January, Castro retweeted a post by Representative Ro Khanna that called for both legalizing marijuana and expunging marijuana convictions from criminal records. Then in April, Castro announced his full support for legalization at a town hall and later on Twitter.
Conclusion: Julián Castro receives a “B-” grade because his support for the legalization of marijuana is not an important part of his platform and because he has no legislative record on the issue. Castro has openly supported legalizing marijuana on his social media, but he does not mention marijuana on his website and only recently did he wholeheartedly express support for legalization at the federal level. He also omits key aspects of criminal justice reform from his platform. Overall, as president we think Castro would support legalizing marijuana, but we question his enthusiasm on this issue.