LAS VEGAS – Many Democrats seeking to unseat President Trump in 2020 are calling for decriminalizing marijuana possession on the federal level -- including South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who told reporters Wednesday he’s tried the drug a “handful” of times in the past.
“I have, a handful of times, a long time ago, and I’ve also encountered a lot of people whose lives have really been shaken by the old war on drugs approach,” Buttigieg told Fox News in Las Vegas.
Nevada legalized marijuana for recreational use in 2017. Several other states have made similar moves, although the drug is still considered illegal on the federal level.
Buttigieg's ambitious proposal has been to “decriminalize all drug possession” while expanding access to addiction treatments and improving drug-abuse and mental-health treatment.
Buttigieg also said legalizing pot would carry numerous business advantages.
“First of all, without legalization, you’re going to continue to see a patchwork of different state laws that create a lot of problems for legitimate businesses like this one,” Buttigieg said outside the Top Notch dispensary in Vegas on a campaign stop.
He added, “We not only need to legalize but we also need to pursue experiments, knowing the racial disparity and lives that have been ruined by sentences over marijuana possession.”
Other 2020 Democrats seemed to be on the same page.
Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke toured an Oakland, Calif., dispensary last month, and called for allocating monthly stipends to people who were previously locked up for low-level marijuana offenses as a form of recompense.
Meantime, other candidates have admitted to using the drug before. California Sen. Kamala Harris, in a radio interview earlier this year, said, “I have, and I inhaled -- I did inhale. It was a long time ago, but yes.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders, when running in the 2016 primaries, also acknowledged he tried it a couple of times.
“I smoked marijuana twice — didn’t quite work for me,” he told Yahoo! News.
Candidates have split over how they would legalize marijuana federally. Buttigieg said it would need to be done through the proper legislative channels, while Sanders has expressed that he would use an executive order to carry it out.
Buttigieg agreed that the stigma surrounding marijuana use should diminish.
He also made a pitch specifically to veterans. “Yeah, so I've met a lot of veterans who rely on cannabis for the treatment of diagnosed or undiagnosed issues, often service-connected issues like post-traumatic stress. And, another benefit of decriminalization is, it could pave the way for this to be supported with” the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Asked by another reporter if he had bought any items in the dispensary, which he compared to an Apple Store in appearance, he said: “I will not. I’m on the clock and it’s gonna be a long day.”