Grading the Presidential Candidates on Marijuana: Tom Steyer

We recently ran a series of blog posts that take a close look at the Democratic Party candidates for President in 2020. We examined each candidate’s historic approach to marijuana law and policy, and we also canvassed their current respective stances on marijuana.

In all, we covered Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Corey Booker, Beto O’Rourke, Andrew Yang, Amy Klobuchar and Julián Castro. We concluded by covering President Trump.

Those posts were very popular, and in light of the fact that two more Democratic Party candidates later qualified for the most recent debate, we added Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard last week, and we turn to liberal activist Tom Stayer today.

Former Hedge Fund Manager and Founder of NextGen Non-Profit Tom Steyer

Grade: C-

Stance on marijuana: Tom Steyer supports legalizing marijuana, but he is far from outspoken on the issue.

History: Steyer has never served in a political office but he was very politically active prior to his presidential campaign through donations to various Democratic Presidential Campaigns, the PAC Need to Impeach, and the nonprofit NextGen. None of his political activism addressed marijuana.

Tom Steyer does not mention marijuana on his website nor on his social media. Cannabis-related criminal rehabilitation is also absent from the criminal justice reform section of his platform. Steyer spoke on the issue for the first and only time during an interview in August. He expressed his support for legalization, explaining that marijuana’s illegal status at the federal level made it so that banks could not finance marijuana businesses, even in states where marijuana is legal:

I know that because my wife and I started a community bank that is dedicated to the idea of economic justice, environmental sustainability [and] women- and minority-owned businesses. We know that for us to actually finance marijuana businesses would mean that we would lose the support of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). So, the real question is, don’t we have to change the federal laws so that the FDIC can allow community banks and other banks to support these legal industries in the states where they exist?”

While banking issues regarding marijuana are certainly important, it is concerning that this is the only issue that Steyer brought up about the criminalization of marijuana. Even more concerning, however, is that this is the only time he has directly addressed his views on marijuana.

Conclusion: We give Steyer a “C-” because he has only directly addressed his views on marijuana once. He also does not address criminal justice reform on his website or in his rhetoric.

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