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Where Presidential Candidate Mark Sanford Stands On Marijuana

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Mark Sanford, a former congressman who also served as governor of South Carolina, announced on September 8, 2019 that he was mounting a primary challenge against President Donald Trump, and he dropped out of the race on November 12.

The third candidate to enter the GOP race aside from the incumbent, Sanford’s voting record and comments on marijuana policy indicate that as president he’d be supportive of efforts to at least protect states that have legalized cannabis from federal intervention. Here’s a look at Sanford’s stance on marijuana.

This piece was last updated on November 13, 2019 to include the candidate’s statements and policy actions on marijuana since joining the race.

Legislation And Policy Actions

During his time in the House of Representatives, Sanford cosponsored five pieces of cannabis legislation—including bills to shield medical cannabis states from enforcement actions under the Controlled Substances Act.

He signed on to bills that would promote research into marijuana, legalize industrial hemp and amend the Internal Revenue Code so that cannabis businesses could access tax credits and deductions.

Sanford consistently voted in favor of House floor amendments concerning cannabis reform, with a couple of exceptions. Besides his two votes in support of protecting medical cannabis states (and one for CBD-only states) from federal interference, he was also one of 45 Republicans to back a measure that would extend that protection to adult-use states as well.

In 2014, 2015 and 2016, he supported amendments to allow doctors at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to recommend medical cannabis to military veterans.

Sanford also voted for a 2014 measure to provide marijuana businesses with access to banking services.

On four occasions, the congressman voted in favor of hemp measures, though he voted against one hemp measure in 2015 for reasons that aren’t clear. There were two similar proposals on the day of the vote, with one amendment coming from a Republican that he supported and another from a Democratic that he voted against.

In another standout vote that doesn’t comport with his more recent record, Sanford voted for a resolution in 1998 that was meant to express “the sense of Congress that marijuana is a dangerous and addictive drug and should not be legalized for medicinal use.”

As governor in 2010, Sanford signed sentencing reform legislation that was meant to “reverse the trend toward incarcerating non-violent criminals who pose little or no risk to the public, discourage recidivism by providing inmates with a more closely supervised transition to society once their sentences have been served, and at the same time save taxpayers more than $400 million over the next five years.”

Previous Quotes And Social Media Posts

Though the former congressman hasn’t spent as much time and energy discussing his views on cannabis as most of the Democratic presidential candidates in the race, he has made clear that his position on the issue is informed by a federalist perspective that places emphasis on the importance of upholding states’ rights.

After then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded Obama-era guidance outlining federal marijuana enforcement priorities in 2018, Sanford took to the House floor to make a point about how the move was an infringement upon the principles of federalism.

“This is yet another example of how democracy can be hard. I guess it might be easier if a king just decided everything for us. But that’s not the American way,” he said. “We are an independent lot based on the traditions that were given to us by our Founding Fathers. Each one of us had a voice. We have a say.”

“Washington shouldn’t dictate how our coastline develops, or determine which businesses are illegal in a state like Colorado.”

In a Facebook post from 2017 about his support for legislation that would give cannabis businesses access to federal tax credits and deductions, Sanford said the “principle here is simple, if a state makes something legal…it ought to be treated on par and equally with other legal businesses in the state.”

The concept of federalism “very specifically applies to marijuana policy, wherein many states have legalized its medical use, and yet federal policy still works against what the states have decided,” he wrote.

“Whether you’re for or against the medical use of marijuana matters less than whether we really subscribe and adhere to the founders’ belief in federalism…because it was one of the key balancing tools to offsetting an overgrown and controlling federal government. In short, even with ideas we may not like, it’s important to adhere to federalism if you believe in limiting the size of our federal government.”

“Yeah, I voted accordingly,” Sanford said in 2017 after being asked whether he supports states’ right to legalize marijuana.

In 2015, Sanford complained about federal barriers preventing South Carolina hemp farmers from fully capitalizing on the crop after the state legalized industrial hemp.


“Industrial hemp is not a drug – it’s used as a material in paper products, textiles, and plastics,” he said. “In fact, the U.S. imports more industrial hemp than any other country in the world, but a current federal ban means that state industries are having a hard time getting off the ground.”

“I don’t believe that the federal government should be in the business of penalizing someone for following state law, and in that vein, I hope this bill becomes law,” he added, referencing federal hemp legalization legislation he cosponsored.

Following a vote on an amendment to allow banks to service state-legal cannabis businesses, Sanford again tied the issue to federalism.

“Some say that because marijuana is illegal on the federal level, and banks are federally regulated, that the federal government should use its powers under the interstate commerce clause to block banks from doing any business with these companies,” he said. “In my mind though, the genius of what our founding fathers intended, and explicitly laid out in the Constitution, was that most powers were to be left to the states and individuals rather than the federal government.”

“Whatever side of the debate you fall on for having marijuana be illegal, applying the founding principle of federalism leads me to believe that states should not be constrained by the federal government in matters that most concern their own businesses and citizens. The beauty of the great American experiment and the founding fathers wisdom in including federalism is that it allows states to pioneer on ideas. We see whether they work or fail and the ways in which they do so. It is part of what allows our Republic to innovate and change and as these amendments came to the floor last night, I couldn’t help but think we would be wise to work to preserve that concept…whether we agree or disagree with the local perspective of other states affected.”

In 2018, Sanford condemned a House vote in favor of expanding the attorney general’s authority to add drugs to the list of federally controlled substances. An example of the problem with that, he said, is that state-level marijuana legalization movement.

“I don’t know exactly where this goes, but if one believes in the principle of federalism, it’s important that an Attorney General not have sole discretion in stymying states’ efforts on this front,” he said.

He also used federalism to explain his vote in favor of a spending bill amendment granting VA doctors with the ability to recommend medical cannabis, writing that his vote “came down to one question – should the federal government be in the business of usurping all state law?”

“The beauty of the American experiment is that it included ‘federalism,’ which allows states to pioneer ideas,” he said. “Some we may agree with, others not…but the operative question in this instance is whether or not the federal viewpoint should always prevail over the view of the state.”

He made the same point in a post after voting for a similar measure in 2015.

Sanford was critical of the federal drug scheduling system in a 2016 Facebook post where he noted that cannabis oil is listed in a more restrictive category that cocaine and prescription opioids.

“This is strange given that opioid painkillers are currently causing an epidemic that kills about 50,000 Americans a year and is at such a crisis level that Congress recently passed a bill dealing with it,” he said, adding that a Schedule I classification inhibits research into the substances.

“This is a problem. A lot of people at home have contacted me about cannabis oil being part of the treatment for epilepsy and, in other cases, things like the nausea that comes with chemotherapy. Whether these things are true or not could be debated, but why would you put this drug on a list that would prevent research so that we might end the debate? Either it will help people or it won’t, but it just seems to me to be burying one’s head in the sand to say we won’t allow any research going forward to determine these things.”

Personal Experience With Marijuana

Sanford has repeatedly said that he’s “never used any drug” and doesn’t want his children to use them either.

Marijuana Under A Sanford Presidency

If there’s one thing consistent about Sanford, it’s that he holds the principles of federalism in high esteem and has linked numerous votes in favor of marijuana reform to states’ rights. Though there’s not much in his record to indicate that he would necessarily embrace comprehensive legalization legislation at the federal level, it seems likely that he would oppose any federal crackdown on state-legal cannabis businesses if elected to the White House.

Where Presidential Candidate Joe Walsh Stands On Marijuana

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Sacramento-based senior editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

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New York Doctors Can Now Recommend Medical Marijuana To Patients For Any Condition They See Fit

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As New York prepares the launch of its adult-use marijuana market, the state Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) announced on Monday a significant expansion of the existing medical cannabis program.

Now doctors will be able to issue medical marijuana recommendations to people for any condition that they feel could be treated by cannabis, rather than rely on a list of specific eligible maladies. Physicians were granted that discretion through the state’s recreational marijuana law that was enacted last year.

The expansion is being made possible as part of OCM’s new Medical Cannabis Program certification and registration system.

“It is terrific to see the Medical Cannabis Program expand so vastly with the launch of the new certification and registration program and the ability of practitioners to determine qualifying conditions as included in the MRTA,” Cannabis Control Board (CCB) Chair Tremaine Wright said in a press release.

“The new cannabis industry is taking shape as we continue to implement the MRTA and provide greater access for New Yorkers to a medicine that we’re learning more about every day,” Wright said. “We’re continuing to move forward swiftly and today’s system launch follows our achievements that already include adding whole flower medical product sales, permanently waiving $50 patient fees, and advancing home cultivation regulations, among others.”

Lat last year, CCB voted unanimously to advance a policy change to allow medical cannabis patients in the state to grow plants for personal use, another change made possible by the broad legalization law that was enacted.

In November, regulators also approved rules for the state’s cannabinoid hemp program, notably clarifying that flower from the crop can be sold but delta-8 THC products are currently prohibited from being marketed.

“Launching the new patient certification and registration system and expanding eligibility for the Medical Cannabis Program are significant steps forward for our program,” OCM Executive Director Chris Alexander said. “We will continue to implement the MRTA and ensure that all New Yorkers who can benefit from medical cannabis have the access they need to do so.”

“It’s important for New Yorkers to know that even as we shift the medical program to the OCM, your access will not be disrupted and the program will continue to expand,” he stressed.

While marijuana retailers have yet to launch in New York, the legalization law signed by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) already permits adults 21 and older to possess and publicly consume cannabis. Meanwhile, lawmakers in the state have been working to build upon the reform.

For example, a New York senator filed a bill last month to make it so that gay, lesbian and bisexual people can qualify as social equity applicants under the state’s marijuana law.

Sen. Jeremy Cooney (D) introduced the legislation, shortly after filing a separate bill to include transgender and non-binary people in the cannabis social equity program. He’s also behind other recent marijuana reform proposals related to cannabis business tax benefits and licensing.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,000 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

In July, Cooney filed a bill to create a provisional marijuana licensing category so that farmers could begin cultivating and selling cannabis ahead of the formal rollout of the adult-use program.

Cooney is also sponsoring a newly filed bill to allow licensed cannabis companies to deduct certain business expenses on their state tax returns.

Gov. Kathy Hochul (D), who replaced Cuomo after he resigned amid a sexual harassment scandal, has repeatedly emphasized her interest in efficiently implementing the legalization law.

Hochul released a State of the State book earlier this month that called for the creation of a $200 million public-private fund to specifically help promote social equity in the state’s burgeoning marijuana market.

The governor said that while cannabis business licenses have yet to be approved since legalization was signed into law last year, the market stands to generate billions of dollars, and it’s important to “create opportunities for all New Yorkers, particularly those from historically marginalized communities.”

That proposal was also cited in Hochul’s executive budget, which was released last week. The budget also estimated that New York stands to generate more than $1.25 billion in marijuana tax revenue over the next six years.

The state Department of Labor separately announced in recent guidance that New York employers are no longer allowed to drug test most workers for marijuana.

Meanwhile, a New York lawmaker introduced a bill in June that would require the state to establish an institute to research the therapeutic potential of psychedelics.

Another state legislator filed legislation last month to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for medical purposes and establish facilities where the psychedelic could be grown and administered to patients.

Colorado Meets Marijuana Industry Diversity Goal Ahead Of Schedule

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Colorado Meets Marijuana Industry Diversity Goal Ahead Of Schedule

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Colorado officials announced on Monday that the state has achieved a “wildly important goal” of increasing diversity in the legal marijuana industry—but the data shows there’s still a way to go before cannabis business ownership is on par with the state’s population demographics.

Nearly 17 percent of the state’s cannabis businesses are now minority-owned as of January 1, the Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) reported. Colorado had set a goal of at least 16.8 percent minority ownership in the cannabis sector by June 30, 2022, and that’s already been narrowly exceeded by the beginning of the year.

When data on licensee demographics started to be collected in July 2021, there was 15.2 percent minority ownership in the marijuana market. Now it’s up to 16.8 percent.

As of January 1, the state has also approved 50 social equity licenses for communities disproportionately impacted by prohibition.

Via Colorado DOR.

As one of the first states to legalize marijuana for adult use, there’s been significant pressure on Colorado to ensure that the industry is equitable, benefitting those who have been most impacted under criminalization.

“Colorado is demonstrating that intentionally revising state marijuana laws to be more equitable gets results,” Shaleen Title, a former Massachusetts cannabis regulator and current CEO of the Parabola Center, told Marijuana Moment.

“If one of the most mature markets can make clear progress, it’s not too late for any market. And although there’s always more to go—we should all be aiming for proportional representation in ownership at the very least—Colorado is setting and reaching reasonable goals,” she said. “It’s good for transparency and it’s good for morale, and having more data on what’s working at the state level is valuable to inform federal policy.”

(Disclosure: Title supports Marijuana Moment’s work via a monthly pledge on Patreon.)

A demographic breakdown of the new data shows that while there’s been an increase in minority ownership, the percentage of black people who own a majority stake in a cannabis business (2.9 percent) is still lower than the percentage of black people who live in the state (4.6 percent).

There’s also a significant disparity when it comes to gender and marijuana licensing. MED’s report says that there are 1,535 men who own a marijuana business, compared to just 350 women.

And with respect to license type, white people have a notably more expansive portfolio compared to other races.

Via MED.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) is also working to right the wrongs of prohibition outside of licensing. For example, last month he granted 1,351 pardons for convictions of possession of two ounces or less of marijuana.

That move focused on people who were made eligible for relief under a new law that increased the legal cannabis possession limit for adults in the state, which Polis signed in May. At the time, he directed state law enforcement to identify people with prior convictions for amounts under the new, two-ounce limit.

Polis signed an executive order in 2020 that granted clemency to almost 3,000 people convicted of possessing one ounce or less of marijuana. And while earlier legislation that enabled him to do that in an expedited way applied to possession cases involving up to two ounces, his office declined to pardon those with more than one ounce on their records because that amount violated the existing state law.

As the state works to increase diversity in the marijuana industry, it’s also collecting significant tax revenue from cannabis sales.

Last year alone, Colorado generated $423 million in tax revenue from cannabis, the state’s Department of Revenue reported last week.

Nearly $500 million of cannabis tax revenue in Colorado has supported the state’s public school system so far, according to a report from the Marijuana Policy Project.

Massachusetts Marijuana Tax Revenue Now Exceeds Alcohol By Millions

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Governors Across The U.S. Tout Marijuana Reform Progress In State Of The State Speeches And Budgets

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Governors across the U.S. have been taking the opportunity to tout marijuana reform accomplishments as part of their annual State of the State speeches and budget requests this month.

From New York to South Dakota, the comments and proposals from state executives demonstrate how cannabis has become more mainstream and is being talked about in high profile venues alongside more traditional fare such as taxes, education and infrastructure.

It’s also part of a growing theme, as governors have increasingly brought up marijuana policy in State of the State addresses each year to kick off the new year as the legalization movement spreads.

Here’s a look at what governors are saying about marijuana policy in 2022: 

New Jersey

While adult-use marijuana retail sales have yet to launch in New Jersey after voters approved a 2020 legalization referendum, the state’s top executive said in his State of the State address that he’s expecting an economic boon.

“Many jobs await in the cannabis industry ready to take off,” Gov. Phil Murphy (R) said.

The governor also said separately in his second inaugural address this month that “businesses in the new cannabis industry that we are setting up in the name of social justice” are part of efforts to “continue growing the innovation economy that will power our future and make us a model for the nation and the world.”

As the state prepares to implement legal cannabis sales, Murphy said late last year that he’s open to giving adults the right to cultivate marijuana for personal use even though it’s not currently written into the law.

New Mexico

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) talked in here State of the State speech about the economic potential of the marijuana industry under the legalization law she signed last year.

“We’re expanding our economic footprint into every single community,” the governor said in her State of the State address. “Legal cannabis is going to create thousands of jobs and serious tax revenue for local governments to support local services in every corner of our state.”

New York

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) released a State of the State book earlier this month that called for the creation of a $200 million public-private fund to specifically help promote social equity in the state’s burgeoning marijuana market.

The governor said that while cannabis business licenses have yet to be approved since legalization was signed into law last year, the market stands to generate billions of dollars, and it’s important to “create opportunities for all New Yorkers, particularly those from historically marginalized communities.”

That proposal was also cited in Hochul’s executive budget, which was released last week. The budget also estimated that New York stands to generate more than $1.25 billion in marijuana tax revenue over the next six years.

The briefing book for the executive budget touts how Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) has “prioritized getting New York’s cannabis industry up and running” since marijuana was legalized under her predecessor last year. That includes appointing key regulators who’ve been “creating and implementing a comprehensive regulatory framework.”

Rhode Island

The governor of Rhode Island included a proposal to legalize marijuana as part of his annual budget plan—the second time he’s done so. And time around, he also added new language to provide for automatic cannabis expungements in the state.

Gov. Dan McKee (D) released his request for the 2023 fiscal year on Thursday, calling for adult-use legalization as lawmakers say they’re separately nearing a deal on enacting the reform. It appears that an outstanding disagreement between the governor and legislators concerning what body should regulate the program remains unresolved based on the new budget proposal, however.

In general, McKee’s plan would allow adults 21 and older to purchase and possess up to one ounce of cannabis, though it would not provide a home grow option. Adults could also store up to five ounces of marijuana in secured storage in their primary residence.

“The governor recommends creating a strictly regulated legal market for adult-use cannabis in the state,” an executive summary states. “This proposal would create a weight-based excise tax on marijuana cultivation, an additional retail excise tax of 10 percent, and also apply sales tax to cannabis transactions.”

South Dakota

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) isn’t a fan of adult-use legalization, going so far as to fund a lawsuit against a voter-approved 2020 reform initiative that ultimately led to a court ruling voiding the law. Her office has even suggested that activists behind the successful legalization campaign should front the legal bills for the case.

However, she seems to recognize the popularity of the issue and has recently attempted to associate herself with the implementation of the separate medical cannabis legalization law that voters also approved, as she did in her State of the State address this month.

“I take our citizens’ health seriously. I don’t make these decisions lightly. And when we create new policy, we’re going to do everything we can to get it right from day one,” Noem said. “Our state’s medical cannabis program is one example.”

“It was launched on schedule according to the timeline passed by South Dakota voters,” she said. “I know there will be some debate about that program this session. My focus is on making sure South Dakota has the safest, most responsible, and well-run medical cannabis program in the country.”

Noem tried to get the legislature to approve a bill to delay implementation of the medical cannabis program for an additional year, but while it cleared the House, negotiators were unable to reach an agreement with the Senate in conference, delivering a defeat to the governor.

In response, her office started exploring a compromise last year, with one proposal that came out of her administration to decriminalize possession of up to one ounce of cannabis, limit the number of plants that patients could cultivate to three and prohibit people under 21 from qualifying for medical marijuana.

Advocates weren’t enthused with the proposal, and now they’re taking a two-track approach to enacting broader legalization legislatively and through the ballot.

Virginia

In his final State of the Commonwealth address this month, now former-Gov. Ralph Northam (D) talked about the criminal justice implications of his state’s move to legalize marijuana last year.

“We also worked closely with you to make sure our criminal justice system reflects the Virginia that we are today. Too often, our modern-day punishments and practices have their roots in a more discriminatory and unfair past,” he said. “That’s why we’ve made marijuana use legal.”

He also thanked the legislators who championed the reform “for their work on this policy, which is complicated, but important.”

Meanwhile, the new governor of Virginia, Glenn Youngkin, said recently that while he’s not interested in re-criminalizing marijuana possession, which became legal in the state last summer, but he feels there’s “still work to be done” before he gets behind creating a market for commercial sales and production.

Bipartisan Pennsylvania Senators File Bill To Let Medical Marijuana Patients Grow Their Own Plants

Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

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