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Where Presidential Candidate Seth Moulton Stands On Marijuana

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Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) announced on April 22, 2019 that he was competing for the 2020 Democratic nomination and dropped out of the race on August 23.

An Iraq War veteran who has sponsored legislation to reform cannabis policies at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)—and who endorsed marijuana legalization prior to the voters of his state enacting it—the congressman earned a “B+” grade from NORML. Here’s a closer look at his record on cannabis.

This piece was last updated on August 29, 2019 to include the candidate’s statements and policy actions on marijuana since joining the race.

Legislation And Policy Actions

Moulton has been the chief sponsor of six marijuana-related bills, all of which focus on medical cannabis for military veterans.

During the 115th and 116th Congresses, he introduced bipartisan legislation that would require the VA to survey veterans about medical marijuana and another bill that would direct the department to provide training on cannabis to primary care physicians.

The congressman also filed a bill that would protect veterans from losing VA benefits due to marijuana use that’s in compliance with state law.

“Veterans want an alternative to opioids, and Congress should support them,” Moulton said in a press release about the package of bills. “Let’s not kid ourselves: people are using marijuana—including our veterans. Rather than ignoring this reality, Congress should let doctors talk with their patients about it, and we should learn more about cannabis so it can be safely used and properly regulated.”

“We have a long road ahead of us until medicinal cannabis is fully-researched and legal, but a few steps now will speed that along. Veterans deserve the best healthcare in the world,” he said. “This is a step in that direction.”

Outside of filing those bills, Moulton has signed on as a cosponsor of over a dozen other pieces of cannabis legislation, including bills that would remove marijuana from the list of federally controlled substances and exempt state-legal marijuana activity from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

Moulton has also cosponsored bipartisan bills that would shield banks that service state-legal marijuana businesses from being penalized by federal regulators and another to provide for tax fairness for the cannabis industry.

Other legislation he has signed onto would require the federal government to study the effects of state legalization laws, direct the VA conduct clinical trials on medical cannabis for veterans, shield federal employees from being fired for state-legal marijuana use and allow students to retain federal financial aid if they’re convicted of cannabis possession and complete a drug rehabilitation program.

He also cosponsored bills that would allow VA doctors to recommend medical cannabis for veterans and to require the Justice Department to approve additional marijuana manufacturer licenses for research purposes.

The first piece of marijuana legislation that Moulton cosponsored was the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act, which would amend the CSA to protect medical marijuana patients and place cannabis in Schedule II.

In terms of votes on amendments, the congressman has a consistent track record of supporting reform on the House floor. In 2015, he voted in favor of amendments to protects states that have legalized marijuana for medical and recreational purposes, as well as states that have legalized CBD and industrial hemp. He also voted for amendments to allow VA doctors to recommend medical cannabis in 2015 and 2016.

On The Campaign Trail

Moulton wrote an op-ed for The Washington Examiner in which he advocated for legislation providing access to medical cannabis for veterans.

“There are places we have to strictly enforce drug laws and places we need to liberalize them, but there’s no question that the vast majority of cities and countries that have decriminalized drugs have seen an improvement in their addicted populations,” he said. “It’s time for change.”

“Ultimately, making the VA a place where veterans can discuss and maybe someday access cannabis, will help our country evolve on this issue too. Through that evolution, I believe we will be able to tackle bigger challenges together—like ending the fundamentally-unjust process of locking people up for possessing marijuana, and, in effect, sentencing them to a lifetime of fewer job opportunities. I support releasing people who are in jail for marijuana possession and expunging their records, especially because Americans in more than half the states in the nation voted to decriminalize this.”

He included adopting a “holistic approach to treatment, including alternative therapies like mindfulness, exercise, & cannabis” in a mental health plan he released in May 2019.

The same month, Moulton said that people in prison for marijuana should be released and have their records expunged.

The congressman said that when he was enlisting in the Marines, he was asked about his cannabis use and that he was privileged to have been accepted after telling the truth that he did previously consume marijuana while others may be denied. He made the admission while advocating for an amendment that would provide military reenlistment waivers for those who only used marijuana once, which cleared a congressional committee in March and was later approved by the full House.

“I’ve seen the statistics of how unbelievably unjust these laws are applied,” he told Business Insider in June 2019 while discussing racial disparities in marijuana enforcement.

“Our criminal justice system is historically unfair,” he tweeted. “One thing we can do to address it is legalize marijuana and make sure those with minor marijuana offenses—who are overwhelmingly people of color—have their records cleared.”

Moulton also delivered a keynote address via video for a cannabis conference.

The congressman told The Boston Globe that he is open to decriminalizing drugs beyond cannabis and that he supports legalizing safe injection sites where people can use illicit drugs like heroin in a medically supervised environment.

“There are places we have to strictly enforce drug laws and places we need to liberalize them, but there’s no question that the vast majority of cities and countries that have decriminalized drugs have seen an improvement in their addicted populations,” he said.

In an interview with Newsy, Moulton said that he is “absolutely open to exploring” legalizing drugs like psilocybin but that more research is needed.

“This is part of our job in Congress is, rather than being black and white about these issues when we don’t even understand the facts, this is a good example of something where I just need to learn the facts and understand more about it,” he said.

Previous Quotes And Social Media Posts

Moulton isn’t especially prolific when it comes to talking about marijuana on social media as compared to some other candidates, but what he has said bodes well for reform advocates.

Importantly, he publicly endorsed Massachusetts’s cannabis legalization measure ahead of Election Day in  2016—something that fellow 2020 contender Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) declined to do.

“I support legalization, but we do need to make sure it’s done right,” he said at the time. “We have an obligation to regulate it and make it as safe as possible.”

“One of the advantages of legalization is it will force us to come to terms with things already happening in Massachusetts today, like people driving under the influence of marijuana and kids using it,” he told WBGH. “If you’re not buying your marijuana from a dealer who sells heroin, who sells opioids, it’s much less likely to be a gateway drug. The problem is now that it operates in the shadows.”

After voters approved the legalization initiative, Moulton said that the state legislature should “dramatically raise the taxes” on marijuana to raise revenue and help fund law enforcement efforts, and he said there’s “a lot of work to be done” that “needs to start right away.”

“There’s a lot that the state legislature needs to do,” Moulton said. “My whole reason for endorsing this was that we’ve got to bring marijuana out of the shadows and actually regulate it. That’s up to the state legislature. So I think this is an important step in the right direction because, let’s not kid ourselves, people were getting access to marijuana today and they were getting access to it yesterday as well.”

Moulton often talks about bringing cannabis “out of the shadows” so that it can be regulated. And he criticized the lack of operating dispensaries in Massachusetts, observing that cannabis will still be sold and consumed in jurisdictions that aren’t allowing the shops.

“The reality is, we’re not going to make marijuana go away by pretending that it’s not in our community,” he said in 2018. “What we ought to be doing is figuring out ways to regulate its use responsibly because otherwise it’s going to be used in the shadows.”

“It’s not my role as a United States representative to come and tell Peabody what to do, but I’m certainly entitled to my opinion and that is my view of this issue,” he said. “I think we’ve got to wake up to the world that we’re in and be responsible about regulating these substances that are a part of our community—and can be used safely, if used appropriately—rather than outlawing them and pretending that they’re not going to be here at all.”

The congressman also applauded the Salem for accepting marijuana businesses, saying that the city was “leading the way.”

“I think the demand that we see proves what I have said all along: People are using marijuana and they want to use it legally, and we should allow them to use it legally and safely with the proper regulation, rather than pretend by outlawing it, people are going to stop,” he said.

Speaking about legislation he filed with respect to veterans and marijuana, Moulton said in 2018 that “it’s clear that this is where things are going” and noted his support for Massachusetts’s legalization initiative. He said “we need to realize people are going to use marijuana whether we like it or not, so let’s make it legal and let’s regulate it to make it safe.”

While testing the waters in the primary state of Iowa in March 2019, Moulton talked about his support for cannabis decriminalization and said that it can help veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and also serve as an alternative to opioid painkillers.

He also talked about his veterans bills on the Cannabis Economy podcast, saying he and fellow sponsor Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) “want to make it very clear to everybody—to veterans, to healthcare providers—that if you’re using cannabis, you should talk about it.”

“You should be able to have an honest, transparent conversation with your healthcare provider so that they can give you better health care,” he said.

Moulton criticized then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions after he rescinded Obama-era guidance on federal marijuana enforcement priorities.

“This is the opposite of what we should be doing. Let’s not kid ourselves—people will be using marijuana regardless of what Attorney General Sessions says,” he wrote. “We have an obligation to regulate it and make it as safe as possible.”

His House reelection campaign subsequently put out a survey claiming that the Trump administration “wants to crack down on possession—hurting those in need of medicinal marijuana and putting new businesses in jeopardy” and posed the question: “do you think the Trump Administration should be interfering with states marijuana laws?”

Personal Experience With Marijuana

Moulton said he has tried marijuana “a couple times” while he was a student at Harvard University, but he added that he “certainly didn’t qualify as a pothead.”

In March 2019, the congressman said “I’ve used weed, and I’m not in prison.”

“Why? Because I didn’t get caught, and it probably doesn’t hurt that I’m white,” he said. That’s the sad reality of criminal justice in America today.”

One month later, he repeated that point during a CNN town hall event.

“I smoked weed when I was younger,” he said. “I didn’t get caught, but if I had, I would’ve been fine. Because I’m a white guy.”

Marijuana Under A Moulton Presidency

Moulton has made marijuana reform—particularly for veterans seeking medical cannabis—somewhat of a priority during his time in Congress. He hasn’t added his name as a cosponsor to broad, equity-focused bills like the Marijuana Justice Act, but he has repeatedly said that the country should regulate cannabis sales to bring it out of the shadows.

And having endorsed the legalization measure in Massachusetts prior to its approval by voters in 2016, Moulton would be in a position to take similar leadership on the issue if elected president.

Where Presidential Candidate Eric Swalwell 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 Los Angeles-based associate editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

Politics

GOP Senator Says He Tried CBD And Jokes About Its Hair Regrowth Potential

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Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) said on Wednesday that he’s tried using CBD to relieve knee pain, but it didn’t work for him. He joked about the compound’s potential to promote hair growth.

During a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee confirmation hearing for Stephen Hahn, the nominee to become Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner, the senator shared the personal anecdote while making a broader point about the need for research into the cannabis ingredient.

“I have a personal interest in this,” Roberts said. “I don’t know why I’m bringing this up, but I have football knees. My wife insists that this little bottle of CBD stuff that you can put that on your knees and it’s going to work. It doesn’t. Well, at least for me it doesn’t.”

“But this is being used for everything. I was gonna mention [Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA)], myself and then you, sir, about the possibility of growth of hair,” he said, observing that both senators and the FDA nominee all lack full heads of hair. “This is ridiculous.”

Watch Roberts’s CBD remark at around 1:54:00 into the video below: 

The exchange ended on a more serious note, with Roberts emphasizing that hemp farmers are eager for FDA to develop a regulatory framework for CBD products, but that the compound must also be carefully studied.

“I think you’ve described very well the balance that’s needed here,” Hahn replied. “As you know from manufacturer surveys, a significant proportion of Americans are using these products, and a significant proportion of Americans who are using the products think that they’re already judged to be safe and effective by FDA when they’re not.”

“I think there are unanswered questions that need to be filled in by data and science and research,” the nominee said, adding that there are signs that CBD “can be an effective medical product and I think we have to have a clear and transparent framework for assessing them, certainly on the medical product side.”

Hahn also recognized the therapeutic potential of CBD while taking questions from Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV), who noted that the compound is known to treat childhood seizure disorders but pointed out scientists continue to struggle accessing cannabis for research purposes to explore its impact on other conditions. The senator asked what can be done to streamline research into Schedule I substances such as marijuana.

“The top-line answer to that is clarity and transparency about what the rules of the road are,” the nominee said. “It’s really important for all innovators as they try to bring new medical products to patients across America.”

“The issue of CBD, which you described, in fact it is an active ingredient in this drug that was approved for a very serious childhood seizure disorder,” he said, referring to the prescription medication Epidiolex. “I think that tells us that there is a pathway for medical products. There are also some indications—cancer, palliative care setting—where CBD might be of benefit, but there are some open and unanswered questions that have to be filled with research.”

Hahn said that research should address what kind of dosages of CBD are best for different conditions and what the implications of long-term use are. He also expressed concern about companies making unsubstantiated claims about what their CBD products can treat. (The exchange with Rosen can be seen in the video above, starting at around 1:39:30.)

Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb also repeatedly stressed that the agency would take action against CBD companies that make especially outlandish medical claims about their products. However, while Gottlieb was often dismissive of the therapeutic potential of these products—suggesting that pets who benefitted from them were simply high from THC, for example—Hahn appears more open-minded about what the compound has to offer.

Air Force Issues Notice Banning CBD Use Regardless Of Legal Status

Photo courtesy of Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

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Air Force Issues Notice Banning CBD Use Regardless Of Legal Status

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The U.S. Air Force published a notice on Tuesday emphasizing that service members are not allowed to use CBD products, even though the non-intoxicating compound is federally legal when it’s derived from hemp.

While the military branch recognized that CBD is widely available in everything from teas to lotions to pet supplements, it said the current lack of regulation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) poses a risk to members because they could inadvertently consume a product that contains excessive amounts of THC that could show up on a drug test.

“It’s important for both uniformed and civilian Airmen to understand the risk these products pose to their careers,” Maj. Jason Gammons, Air Force Office of The Judge Advocate General spokesperson, said. “Products containing unregulated levels of THC can cause positive drug tests, resulting in the same disciplinary actions as if members had consumed marijuana.”

“The important point for Airmen to consider is the level of uncertainty for these products,” he said. “We want to ensure we arm them with the facts so they can make informed decisions and not inadvertently jeopardize their military careers.”

This isn’t the first time the Air Force has weighed in on cannabis. Last year, the branch issued an advisory cautioning against the use of marijuana products regardless of state law.

“Your friend’s grandma’s miracle sticky buns might look mighty tasty and get rave reviews at the big shindig, but if you’re in the military or work for the federal government you might want to think twice and make sure they weren’t made to treat her bad hip first before you jeopardize your career,” the military branch wrote at the time.

But in the months since the president signed the 2018 Farm Bill, which federally legalized hemp and its derivatives, a wave of agencies have posted notices clarifying the rules around CBD consumption.

NASA similarly warned that CBD products could contain unauthorized THC concentrations that could cost employees their jobs if they fail a drug test. Both the Department of Defense and Navy reminded their rank that they’re barred from using CBD no matter its legality. The Coast Guard said in July that sailors can’t use marijuana or visit state-legal dispensaries.

At first, it wasn’t clear if the federal updates on cannabis policy for workers were being coordinated. But it was later reported that the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) issued guidance to federal agency drug program coordinators in July that outlined concerns about THC turning up in CBD products, which seems to have prompted the various departments to clarify their rules.

“Products containing THC, even pet products, may qualify as possession of a controlled substance,” the new Air Force notice says. “Possession of a controlled substance is regulated under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, federal law and state laws.”

It’s not clear if the federal guidance will be updated after FDA finalizes regulations for CBD products, which it is actively working on. FDA has been under pressure to expedite the rulemaking process, but former Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said that it may take years to develop regulations without congressional action.

Lawmakers And Advocates React To Historic Passage Of Bill To End Federal Marijuana Prohibition

Photo by Kimzy Nanney.

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Lawmakers And Advocates React To Historic Passage Of Bill To End Federal Marijuana Prohibition

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Drug policy reform advocates and lawmakers celebrated on Wednesday after a key congressional committee approved a bill to end federal marijuana prohibition for the first time in history.

The House Judiciary Committee voted 24-10, including two “aye” votes from Republican lawmakers, to advance the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act. Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) is the bill’s sponsor.

The legislation would federally deschedule cannabis, provide expungement and resentencing relief and impose a five percent federal tax on marijuana sales to support investments in communities most harmed by the drug war. It would also protect immigrants from being denied citizenship over cannabis and prevent federal agencies from denying public benefits or security clearance due to its use.

Here’s how people are reacting to the bill’s historic passage. 

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD):

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY):

“I have long believed that the criminalization of marijuana has been a mistake, and the racially disparate enforcement of marijuana laws has only compounded this mistake,” Nadler said in a statement. “While states have led the way in reform, our federal laws have not kept pace with the obvious need for change. With the passage of the MORE Act today, the Judiciary Committee has taken long overdue steps to address the devastating injustices caused by the War on Drugs and to finally decriminalize marijuana at the federal level.”

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA):

“As more states legalize marijuana, millions of Americans with marijuana-related convictions continue to face overwhelming barriers to jobs, education, and housing,” Kamala Harris said in a statement. “That is why we must act to remove the burden of marijuana convictions and make sure these individuals have the support needed to move forward. It is also critical that everyone — especially people of color who have been disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs — has a real opportunity to participate in this growing industry. This is a matter of racial and economic justice. I am grateful for Chairman Nadler’s partnership on this issue and for his leadership in moving this legislation forward. I look forward to the House of Representatives passing our legislation soon.”

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ):

“After years of work in the Senate, our efforts to pair marijuana legalization with expungement and reinvestment in the communities most harmed by the War on Drugs have finally led us to today’s critical mark-up,” Booker said in a statement. “The war on drugs has systematically targeted people of color and the poor, harmed job prospects and access to housing for our nation’s most vulnerable communities, and destroyed countless lives.”

“The House Judiciary Committee’s decision to advance this bill is a significant step toward righting these wrongs and healing the wounds of decades of injustice,” he said.

“This is a significant tipping point. The Committee passage of this bill is an important step towards reversing decades of failed drug policy that has disproportionately impacted communities of color and low-income individuals. These draconian laws have sacrificed critical resources, violated our values, destroyed families and communities, and failed to make us safer,” Booker added in a separate press release. “This legislation continues us down the path towards justice and I’m excited to see momentum growing around the movement to fix our nation’s broken drug laws.”

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA):

“This is really a defining moment on so many fronts as it relates to cannabis reform,” Lee told Marijuana Moment in an interview prior to the vote. “I have to salute and thank Chairman Nadler for being bold and for living up to his commitment and for making sure that this is a comprehensive bill that will address the different aspects of these very complicated issues.”

“For those who have been victimized by these unjust laws, I want to just say to them that we have to keep optimistic, keep hope alive and just know that their members of Congress worked to make sure that justice is served.”

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR):

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO):

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI):

Rep. Lou Correa (D-CA):

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN):

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA):

Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA):

Rep. Dwight Evans (D-PA):

Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME):

Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI):

NORML Political Director Justin Strekal:

“The passage of the MORE Act represents the first time that the Judiciary Committee has ever had a successful vote to end the cruel policy of marijuana criminalization,” Strekal said. “Not only does the bill reverse the failed prohibition of cannabis, but it provides pathways for opportunity and ownership in the emerging industry for those who have suffered most.”

“In 2018 alone, over 663,000 Americans were arrested for marijuana-related crimes, a three-year high,” he said. “Now that Chairman Nadler has moved the MORE Act through committee, it is time for the full House to vote and have every member of Congress show their constituents which side of history they stand on.”

NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri:

“This is a truly historic moment in our nation’s political history,” Altieri said. “For the first time, a Congressional committee has approved far-reaching legislation to not just put an end to federal marijuana prohibition, but to address the countless harms our prohibitionist policies have wrought, notable on communities of color and other marginalized groups.”

“Opposition to our failed war on marijuana has reached a boiling point with over two-thirds of all Americans, including majorities of all political persuasions, now supporting legalization,” he said. “Congress should respect the will of the people and promptly approve the MORE Act and close this dark chapter of failed public policy.”

Drug Policy Alliance Executive Director Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno:

“With today’s mark-up of the MORE Act, the United States is coming one step closer to ending the devastating harms of marijuana prohibition, which have fallen so heavily on Black and Brown people,” Sánchez-Moreno said.

“This legislation won’t make up for the full scale of harm that prohibition has caused to its victims. It’s not going to return anyone their lost dreams, time lost at the mercy of the criminal justice system; or the years spent away from their families,” she said. “But this legislation is the closest we’ve come yet to not only ending those harms at the federal level, but also beginning to repair them. Now it’s up to Congress to do the right thing and swiftly pass the bill to ensure justice is not delayed a moment longer.”

Cannabis Trade Federation CEO Neal Levine:

“This committee vote is a historic step forward for cannabis policy reform at the federal level,” Levine said. The MORE Act would ensure cannabis consumers and businesses are treated fairly under the law. It would also bolster state and industry efforts to promote diversity within the cannabis business community, while helping communities and individuals adversely impacted by the war on drugs.”

“A solid majority of Americans support ending cannabis prohibition, and we’re finally seeing that reflected in a vote on Capitol Hill. These votes demonstrate the broad bipartisan support that exists in Congress for allowing states to determine their own cannabis policies,” he said. “There appears to be a consensus among both parties that the conflict between state and federal cannabis laws is untenable and needs to be resolved. We encourage our allies in the Democratic and Republican parties come together to find a bipartisan path forward and pass a law this Congress.”

Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association:

“Today’s vote marks a turning point for federal cannabis policy, and is truly a sign that prohibition’s days are numbered,” Smith said. “Thanks to the diligent efforts of advocates and lawmakers from across the political spectrum, we’ve seen more progress in this Congress than ever before.”

“Supermajority public support for legalization, increasing recognition of the devastating impacts of prohibition on marginalized communities and people of color, and the undeniable success of state cannabis programs throughout the country are all helping to build momentum for comprehensive change in the foreseeable future,” he said.

Americans for Safe Access Interim Director Debbie Churgai:

“This groundbreaking legislation would eliminate barriers to cannabis research and provide access for patients throughout the entire country,” Churgai said. “It is time our federal government steps up to provide relief so that patients everywhere can medicate without fear of losing any of their civil rights and protections, including while in federal housing or healthcare settings, such as hospices.”

Maritza Perez, senior policy analyst for Criminal Justice Reform at the Center for American Progress:

“We commend Chairman Nadler, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), and the House Judiciary Committee for voting the MORE Act out of committee today,” Perez said. “Along with the Marijuana Justice Coalition, CAP has called on Congress to enact marijuana legalization legislation centered on justice reform and equity. We are proud of the milestone reached today and ask that this bill now move swiftly to the House floor for a vote.”

Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights President Vanita Gupta:

Prohibitionist organization Smart Approaches to Marijuana:

Marijuana Legalization Bill Approved By Congressional Committee In Historic Vote

Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.

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