Smart Approaches to Marijuana releases presidential scorecard

This week Smart Approaches to Marijuana* released a presidential scorecard ranking all of the Republican and Democrat primary candidates according to their policy positions on marijuana. The ranking did not solely focus on the question of legalization, but also examined candidates’ positions on support for prevention and treatment as well as taking a scientific approach to medical cannabinoids and other marijuana-derived medications.  The topic of marijuana has come up now in the last three televised debates on both sides of the aisle, so this scorecard is released at an important juncture in the campaign.

“It’s important that the American people understand where the candidates stand on issues related to marijuana,” said Dr. Kevin Sabet, President of SAM. “Unlike in 2012, there are critical issues that candidates need to be aware of, not the least of which is the creation of a new, massive Big Marijuana industry that is taking pages right out of Big Tobacco’s playbook. Our scorecard will keep the candidates accountable.”

First among the field are candidates Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, and Ben Carson.  The scorecard gave them high rankings for their positions in opposition to legalization but openness to medical marijuana use under appropriate circumstances.  Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul came in last in the scorecard.  This was due to their “apparent sympathy with creating a new corporate marijuana industry on par with Big Tobacco.”  SAM did commend Sanders and Paul for their concerns on criminal justice issues related to non-violent drug offenders.

Hillary Clinton lands in the middle of the pack.  The scorecard gives Clinton high praise for her $10 billion plan to invest in substance abuse and mental health treatment and prevention as well as her caution in approaching medical marijuana carefully.  However, she was downgraded because of her stated support to allow Colorado’s “experiment” with legalization to go forward, despite the documented issues with edibles, increased ER admissions, and fatal car crashes.

The question of marijuana briefly came up during Wednesday night’s GOP presidential candidate debate, before getting sidetracked by the candidates circling back to a previous question.  The question was posed to Gov. John Kasich, asking him about marijuana legalization and taxes.  Mr. Kasich responded to the issue he saw with the legalization movement stating, “sending mixed messages to kids on drugs has been a disaster.”  No other candidates had an opportunity to address the question.

* Disclaimer: The author volunteers to serve as the Director of the Maine affiliate of Smart Approaches to Marijuana.  The scorecard was created by the national Smart Approaches to Marijuana organization.  The author was not involved in the creation of the scorecard. 


Scott M. Gagnon, MPP, PS-C

About Scott M. Gagnon, MPP, PS-C

Scott M. Gagnon, MPP, PS-C is a Certified Prevention Specialist and is the Director of Operations at AdCare Educational Institute of Maine, Inc. He currently serves on the Maine Substance Abuse Services Commission as well as the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, Center for Substance Abuse Prevention National Advisory Council. Scott volunteers as the Chair of the marijuana policy education and advocacy group, Smart Approaches to Marijuana Maine and is the current Board President of the Maine Council on Problem Gambling. Scott also serves as a Co-chair of the Prevention & Harm Reduction task force of the Maine Opiate Collaborative, the effort convened by U.S. Attorney Thomas E Delahanty, II to address Maine's growing opiate and addiction crisis. Scott is the recipient of the 2015 Maine Public Health Association's Ruth S. Shaper Memorial Award and 2015 Healthy Androscoggin Will Bartlett Award and is also the 2013 recipient of the Maine Alliance to Prevent Substance Abuse Prevention Award.