Trump vs. Clinton: Who's Better on Weed?

A Motherboard report card.

Sep 26 2016, 8:20pm

Editor's Note: In anticipation of the presidential debates, Motherboard has graded Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on the depth of their insight, and the viability of their policies, regarding the subjects near and dear to us: cybersecurity, health, energy, space, environment, telecom and, of course, marijuana. Spoiler: It's not always pretty.

Quick: What's something—perhaps one of the only things—Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump see eye-to-eye on? If you guessed supporting medicinal cannabis legalization efforts moving forward on a state-by-state basis, *bong rips*.

That the respective Democratic and Republican presidential candidates have both expressed support for medicinal weed is certainly notable, especially in what's become one of the most toxic election cycles in recent memory, possibly ever.

"I think what the states are doing right now needs to be supported," Clinton told Jimmy Kimmel in March. "I absolutely support all the states that are moving toward medical marijuana, moving toward."

Trump, calling marijuana "such a big thing," told the Washington Post last October that, "I think medical should happen—right? Don't we agree? And then I really believe we should leave it up to the states."

But medicinal weed is just one side of a sticky, storied issue in American history. How do former Secretary of State, New York state senator, and FLOTUS Clinton, and Trump, a businessman and one-time reality TV figure, feel about rescheduling cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act? Would they open to doors to more scientific research into the plant, or support nation-wide legalization for the recreational use of weed? Here's what we know:

As president, Clinton would allow states that have enacted cannabis laws to "act as laboratories of democracy," according to the criminal justice reform page of her campaign website. She would also reschedule cannabis from a Schedule I to a Schedule II controlled substance, as doing so, she's indicated, would open up doors to accessing cannabis in research settings.

Additionally, Clinton said she would also focus "federal enforcement resources on violent crime, not simple marijuana possession" as part of her plan to end the era of mass incarceration, according to her website. Clinton would reform mandatory minimum sentencing for nonviolent drug offenders (which we know disproportionately impact people of color) by halving said mandatory minimums; allowing current nonviolent prisoners to seek "fairer sentences"; and rejiggering the "strike" system in such a way that a nonviolent drug offense would no longer count as a "strike", thus cutting down the mandatory penalty for second- and third-strike offenses.

It's harder to shake out Trump's official stance on weed; there isn't a single mention of marijuana on his campaign website. He has said nothing about whether he would or would not consider rescheduling marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act, though in February he did tell Bill O'Reilly that he knows "people that have serious problems" for whom medical marijuana "really does help them."

Trump has made a handful of statements regarding marijuana and the War on Drugs in press interviews over the years. Back in 1990, Trump told the Miami Herald that, "You have to legalize drugs to win that war". But flash forward a quarter century, and Trump has made building a wall along the US-Mexico border to keep out illegal drugs, among other things, a cornerstone of his campaign. The feasibility of pulling that off is a story unto itself.

In the end, based on what both candidates have-slash-have-not said the national outlook for weed wouldn't look all too much different in a Clinton presidency as it would in a Trump presidency. On paper, at least. Which is putting it bluntly.

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