Rep. Dean Phillips (D) is challenging incumbent President Joe Biden for the 2024 Democratic presidential nomination—and the congressman’s drug policy record reflects a consistent commitment to reform at the state and federal level.
Phillips officially entered the race on October 27, stating that while he thinks the president has done an effective job to date, Biden’s slumping poll numbers raise concerns about his viability in the election, and he’s hoping to offer an alternative pathway for Democrats.
When it comes to drug policy issues, Phillips has supported federal marijuana legalization, pushed the Biden administration to provide relief to those who’ve been criminalized over cannabis and advocated for research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics.
His voting record shows ongoing support for reform across the board—including incremental measures on marijuana banking, as well as more comprehensive proposals to end federal cannabis prohibition while promoting social equity.
The congressman isn’t the only candidate challenging the incumbent president for the Democratic nomination. Marianne Williamson is again seeking the party nod, with a platform that also involves marijuana and psychedelics reform advocacy. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was previously running as a Democrat, but he’s since switched to independent.
This story was last updated on November 17, 2023 to include the candidate’s statements and policy actions on marijuana since joining the race.
Here’s where Democratic presidential candidate Dean Phillips stands on marijuana and psychedelics:
Legislation And Policy Actions
Phillips has voted for and cosponsored several cannabis reform bills since joining Congress in 2019, including a Democratic-led legalization measure titled the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act in 2020, 2022 and this session, as well as a bipartisan legalization proposal called the States Reform Act this session.
He voted for the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act to safeguard financial institutions that work with state-licensed cannabis businesses in 2019 and 2021. He’s also currently listed as a cosponsor of the reform legislation this session.
The congressman further supported appropriations amendments to prevent federal interference in all state marijuana programs in 2019 and 2020. And he voted in favor of legislation that was ultimately signed by Biden late last year to streamline marijuana research, in addition to a measure to prevent security clearance denials over cannabis use alone.
Phillips’s list of cosponsorships also includes proposals to amend an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) code known as 280E to allow state-legal marijuana businesses to take federal tax deductions, remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), provide the marijuana industry with access to federal Small Business Administration (SBA) services and allow U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) doctors to issue medical cannabis recommendations to veterans living in legal states.
In short, it seems the congressman has voted favorably on each cannabis reform measure that’s come before him since taking office, and he’s also proactively showed his support by cosponsoring both modest and comprehensive legislation.
In October 2023, the congressman signed a letter to the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), urging the agency to take into account congressional and state marijuana legalization efforts as it carries out a review into cannabis scheduling. He and other lawmakers also criticized the limitations of simple rescheduling as they push for complete a complete removal of marijuana from the CSA.
Phillips further signed onto a 2022 letter to appropriations leadership calling on broad protections against federal intervention for states, territories and tribes that have enacted legalization.
In a separate 2021 letter the congressman signed that was addressed to Biden, he joined his colleagues in urging the president to use his executive authority to issue a mass pardon for people with federal cannabis convictions on their records. The president eventually did provide such relief to people who’ve committed federal marijuana possession offenses the following year.
Phillips has also taken interest in psychedelics policy issues. For example, in January 2022, the congressman was among a group of lawmakers who sent a letter to the head of the DEA, imploring the agency to allow terminally ill patients to use psilocybin as an investigational treatment without the fear of federal prosecution.
Phillips had also signed a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), asking that it consider creating a psychedelics task force to investigate the therapeutic of certain psychedelics like psilocybin and MDMA in anticipation of federal approval of the substances for prescription use. The agency responded that it was “exploring” that possibility last year.
On The Campaign Trail
In November 2023, the candidate said that President Joe Biden should smoke marijuana to better understand the country’s “awfully hypocritical” double standard that allows people to drink alcohol and work at the White House but face potential imprisonment over cannabis.
“I’m sure he has never even smelled weed, let alone smoked it. The fact of the matter is, I think he should,” Phillips said.
“Cannabis is still a Schedule I narcotic in the United States of America, like heroin. It’s nonsensical,” he added. “But this is your federal government, with people who think that’s fine.”
The congressman also briefly touched on his support for psychedelics reform, saying that he’s talked with military veterans “whose lives have improved so dramatically from PTSD just by microdosing psilocybin—and right now we can’t even test it.”
Phillips pointed to an exit poll showing that only 25 percent of Ohio voters say Biden should run for re-election, while the state overwhelmingly approved a marijuana legalization initiative, is an example of the “disconnect between the DC political industrial complex + X, and the exhausted majority of Americans.”
Want evidence of the disconnect between the DC political industrial complex + X, and the exhausted majority of Americans?
In an exit poll of Ohioans who voted to make abortion and cannabis legal, ONLY 25% said Joe Biden should run for re-election. https://t.co/nuzq4T8Hxf
— Congressman Dean Phillips 🇺🇸 (@deanbphillips) November 8, 2023
In an interview with CNN in November 2023, Phillips discussed his support for marijuana legalization and criticized the incumbent president for failing to act on an issue that’s support by the vast majority of the public.
Previous Quotes And Social Media Posts
When the congressman’s state of Minnesota was moving forward with a legalization bill in 2021, he endorsed the proposal and sent a letter to legislative leaders stating that laws prohibiting cannabis “defy both common sense and the will of the people.”
“As elected officials, it is our collective responsibility to listen to our constituents, especially when there is such broad agreement on the need to act,” he said. “I urge the Minnesota House and Senate to respect the freedom and liberty of those they serve and pass H.F. 600, joining those states—both Red and Blue—who have already recognized the sensibility of legalizing, regulating, and taxing cannabis.”
— Rep. Dean Phillips 🇺🇸 (@RepDeanPhillips) May 12, 2021
In a separate letter to a constituent that year, Phillips said that legalization “has become center-stage in our society, and the debate over related legislation is an issue that we must take seriously.”
“While we must acknowledge health and other risks associated with cannabis, we should also recognize that criminalizing its use exacerbates racial inequalities in our legal system,” he said. “Prohibition prevents those suffering from certain illnesses from receiving beneficial medication and creates a black market, emulating the very situation politicians attempt to avoid by criminalizing cannabis.”
"I believe we should legalize, regulate, and tax cannabis." – @RepDeanPhillips wrote to a constituent today in response to a message in favor of the #MOREact, which would end federal marijuana prohibition. pic.twitter.com/dy1fsCsjLa
— NORML (@NORML) June 23, 2021
“It’s time to de-schedule cannabis, allow states to control it as as they see fit, and ensure responsibly operated enterprises and their employees are treated the same as any American business,” he said in April 2023, aligning himself with Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) with respect to her views on normalizing federal tax policy for the marijuana industry.
Nancy and I are in full agreement. It’s time to de-schedule cannabis, allow states to control it as as they see fit, and ensure responsibly operated enterprises and their employees are treated the same as any American business. 🇺🇸 https://t.co/Ui6oVrZvSv
— Rep. Dean Phillips 🇺🇸 (@RepDeanPhillips) May 1, 2023
After the House passed the MORE Act last year, he joked about giving a constituent a “high” five.
What better way to celebrate the passing of the MORE Act to decriminalize marijuana than a “high”five? https://t.co/fZPJKPNBLh
— Rep. Dean Phillips 🇺🇸 (@RepDeanPhillips) April 1, 2022
It wasn’t the first time that Phillips has leaned into cannabis culture. He joked about members rushing out of the chamber to get Taco Bell after the 2020 vote to approve a marijuana legalization bill.
I think some were rushing to Taco Bell after the cannabis vote.
— Rep. Dean Phillips 🇺🇸 (@RepDeanPhillips) December 5, 2020
When then-Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-VA) punned that the comment was “blunt,” Phillips replied that it gave “new meaning to a ‘joint’ session of Congress.”
Gives new meaning to a “joint” session of Congress.
— Rep. Dean Phillips 🇺🇸 (@RepDeanPhillips) December 5, 2020
“I love how you keep ‘rolling’ them out,” Riggleman said, to which Phillips responded, “Surprised it wasn’t called the ‘Green New Deal.'”
Surprised it wasn’t called the “Green New Deal”.
— Rep. Dean Phillips 🇺🇸 (@RepDeanPhillips) December 5, 2020
The congressman was also outspoken about his criticism of the the Olympics suspending U.S. runner Sha’Carri Richardson due to a positive THC test.
“It’s time to legalize cannabis, regulate it, tax it, and stop treating people who use it as criminals. The current law is ruining lives not saving them,” he said.
It’s time to legalize cannabis, regulate it, tax it, and stop treating people who use it as criminals. The current law is ruining lives not saving them. https://t.co/PJBcaQrA4c
— Rep. Dean Phillips 🇺🇸 (@RepDeanPhillips) July 2, 2021
He further condemned the incarceration of WNBA player Britney Griner in a Russian prison after she was convicted of possessing vape cartridges with cannabis oil. The athlete was later released following a prisoner swap.
Brittney Griner’s 9 year sentence for possession of cannabis is just as absurd as classifying cannabis as a Schedule I narcotic.
— Rep. Dean Phillips 🇺🇸 (@RepDeanPhillips) August 5, 2022
At Benzinga’s cannabis conference in April 2023, Phillips discussed how Biden is being “pushed” to move on cannabis reform. He added, however, that “anyone who has to be pushed to understand that cannabis should not be classified along with other dangerous drugs like heroin and cocaine needs much more education.”
Personal Experience With Marijuana
It does not appear that Phillips has publicly discussed any personal experience with marijuana.
Marijuana Under A Phillips Presidency
Phillips is a clear advocate for marijuana legalization and psychedelics reform. And unlike other candidates who might share his views, he has a concrete legislative record to back them up, with multiple votes and cosponsorships to buttress his platform on the issue.
He’s been among lawmakers who were quick to press Biden on cannabis policy, and he’s shown interest in working across the aisle to advance comprehensive reform. All told, it appears Phillips would likely be a strong ally for the marijuana reform movement and industry if elected president.