"New York Times" Fact-Checks Elizabeth Warren's Stance on Legalization

By Paul Gaita 06/05/19

Warren is now pro-legalization but the record shows that this was not always the case.

 Elizabeth Warren

A new article by the New York Times fact-checks Senator Elizabeth Warren's comments regarding marijuana legalization.

In April 2019, the senator, who is currently a 2020 Democratic candidate for president, told a CNN town meeting that she "thought it made a lot more sense for Massachusetts to go ahead and legalize marijuana" instead of decriminalizing it, which the state passed in 2008.

However, the Times found that Warren's declaration was somewhat exaggerated, and pointed to comments made in 2011 and 2012 that appeared to show reluctance towards embracing full legalization.

At the town hall meeting in April, Warren was responding to a student's question about her stance towards legalization by noting that she "supported Massachusetts changing its laws on marijuana," and believed that legalization was a more effective measure than decriminalization.

The Times considered her comment an "exaggerated" version of her actual stance at various times in the past.

During the Senate Democratic primary debate in October 2011, Warren actually opposed legalization. "Medical marijuana is one thing, but [legalization] generally, no," she said. A year later, she declined to offer an opinion on the issue during an interview with the Associated Press, but later voiced her support for medical marijuana during an interview for Boston radio.

In 2015, Warren was asked by Boston Globe reporter Joshua Miller about her previous opposition to legalization efforts. She told Miller that she was "open to it" after hearing about legalization measures in other states, and reiterated her willingness to consider legalization a year later when asked about her position on Question 4, a legalization initiative on the November 2016 ballot.

The Times piece found that Warren's statements on various subjects were largely true, including the decline of the minimum wage and her wealth tax plan, though it took issue with her description of Democratic support for said plan as "huge."

Warren's current support for legalization puts her on equal footing with the majority of her fellow Democratic candidates, including Senators Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, Kamala Harris and Mayor Pete Buttgieg, as well as former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro. 

Former Vice President Joe Biden supports decriminalization efforts, criminal record expungement for marijuana charges and federal research into cannabis, but has stopped short of backing legalization, a position he shares with two other Democratic candidates, former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and Senator Sherrod Brown.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.