The other day I described Bernie Sanders as "the first major-party presidential candidate to endorse marijuana legalization at the state level and descheduling at the federal level." That's true if you focus on the current election cycle. But as I explain in my latest Forbes column, at least one Democrat and one Republican have previously endorsed marijuana legalization while seeking a presidential nomination:
Last Saturday, three days after Bernie Sanders unveiled legislation to repeal the federal ban on marijuana, Hillary Clinton proposed moving marijuana to a slightly less restrictive legal category. The former secretary of state's faint echo of the Vermont senator's bold bill—the first of its kind in the Senate—underlined how timid Clinton has always been on the subject of drug policy reform. Although the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee has had second thoughts about the mandatory minimum sentences she used to champion, the woman who a few years ago explained that we can't legalize the drug trade because "there is just too much money in it" clearly is not ready to call off the war on weed, even though that is what most Americans seem to want.
The dueling marijuana proposals also showed that Sanders, whose chances of winning his party's presidential nomination are remote at best, is nevertheless pushing Clinton to address issues she would prefer to ignore. Marijuana legalization is especially popular among Democrats, and her proposal to facilitate medical studies by reclassifying the drug looks like a bone for primary voters who might embarrass her by favoring Sanders, who in some recent polls has drawn support from a third of Democrats.
While Sanders is having a noticeable impact on the drug policy debate within his party, he is not the first major-party presidential candidate to say marijuana should be legal.