Legalize It? Your Canna-Friendly Guide to the First 2016 Democratic Debate

Published on October 13, 2015 · Last updated July 28, 2020

Tonight marks the first Democratic Debate of the 2016 Election. And what better place to see the liberals go head to head on big issues like climate change and immigration reform than the City of Sin: Las Vegas.

The debate, to be hosted by CNN and moderated by Anderson Cooper, promises to be dry but important viewing: this is the future of our country we’re talking about here, people! And with various news outlets dubbing 2016 the "marijuana election," you should do your best to familiarize yourself with the presidential candidates since their cannabis policies could either be the tipping point or the death knell for the growing cannabis movement.

To help you through tonight's debate, we’ve prepared a cheat sheet guide designed to provide maximum debate enjoyment. So stock up on your favorite strain, grab some delicious snacks, and tune into the Silver Fox as he grills the candidates on a multitude of issues.

Your Pre-Debate To-Do List

Get your viewing party prepared beforehand by stocking up on the essentials:

  • Provide plenty of non-infused food, snacks, and beverages — be sure to balance your cannabis consumption with some legit party snacks
  • Pick up your favorite cannabis strains — we recommend sativas or sativa-leaning hybrids, as you may need a little energy boost to counteract the potentially dry debate (check out our list of energetic cannabis strains for guidance)
  • Offer some cannabis-infused edibles — make sure your guests know the proper dosage and will consume properly, as edibles can pack a powerful (and slow-to-onset) punch when compared to flower
  • Keep some peppercorns on hand just in case — just in case things get a bit too intense for comfort
  • Brush up on our ways to counteract a too-intense cannabis high — you want tonight to be a fun, enjoyable experience, not a Hunter S. Thompson-esque spiral into the weird and uncomfortable
  • Offer safe modes of transportation for your guests — make sure nobody gets behind the wheel while under heavy influence of cannabis

Your Democratic Candidates Cheat Sheet

Okay, now that you're prepared with your favorite strains and snacks, familiarize yourself with tonight's debate candidates. Let’s start with the front-runner.

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton: Former First Lady, Secretary of State, and New York senator

In Favor Of: Overhauling immigration policy; tighter gun control

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Cannabis Chill Status: Fairly chill. While she may have been hitting the books too hard to try marijuana as a student at Wellesley College in the 60’s (nor has she ever tried it, for that matter), she said she’d like to “wait and see” how states handle recreational legalization before bringing that decision to the national level.

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders: Vermont senator who's gaining on Hillary and could bring some cranky fireworks tonight

In Favor Of: Carbon emission taxes; free education; “feeling the Bern”

Cannabis Chill Status: Kinda chill. Sanders is pro-medicinal use of cannabis and previously co-sponsored a bill on the issue. He’d also like to see how legal recreational use plays out in states like Colorado before bringing the issue to the national level, and overall believes too many people are in jail for drug charges.

Lincoln Chafee

Lincoln Chafee: Former (Republican!) senator and current (Independent!) governor of Rhode Island

In Favor Of: The Affordable Care Act; the metric system

Cannabis Chill Status: Honestly pretty chill. Chafee signed a bill as governor of Rhode Island to decriminalize anything under an ounce and instead make it punishable by fine. He’s also mentioned an interest in the revenue to be had by legalizing, and would like to see how Colorado fares in the future.

Martin O'Malley

Martin O’Malley: Governor of Maryland

In Favor Of: Gun control; the DREAM Act

Chill Status: Increasingly chill. O’Malley recently visited Denver to talk about legalization, and has cited the fact that he decriminalized marijuana in Maryland. Additionally, he would like to make marijuana a Schedule II drug, allowing doctors to issue prescriptions and do research.

Jim Webb

Jim Webb: Virginia senator, author of 10 novels, former secretary of the Navy, combat veteran, Emmy award winner

In Favor Of: Replacing the Dos Equis guy as the Most Interesting Man in the World (he won an Emmy, for crying out loud)

Chill Status: Most chill. Webb holds possibly the most progressive stance on legalization, pushing for education instead of incarceration and citing the handling of cigarettes as a model for treating drugs.

Of course, the most exciting thing that could happen is Joe Biden could show up. Then again, he’s probably the least cannabis-friendly amongst them.

Joe Biden

Joe Biden: VP of Schmoozing (oh, and of the United States)

In Favor Of: Not announcing whether he’s running; forcing CNN to buy an extra podium for him just in case he decides to turn up

Chill Status: Less chill than you’d think for such a chill guy. In 2010, Biden said that marijuana is a gateway drug and that it should not be legalized. He may have softened a bit since then, but overall he still does not believe that legalization is the way forward. Considering his past aggressive stances on the War on Drugs and the fact that he supported a mandatory minimum sentence for marijuana, don’t expect Biden to lighten up or light up anytime soon.

There you have it: your comparatively small roundup of Democratic hopefuls for 2016. Happy viewing (and even happier viewing if moderator Anderson Cooper manages to squeeze in an impression of Donald Trump)!

Brush up on the other 2016 presidential candidates and what they think of cannabis, or dive more deeply into Hilldawg and Colonel Sanders

What Do the 2016 Presidential Candidates Think About Cannabis?

How Would a Hillary Clinton Presidency Affect the Cannabis Movement?

Bernie Sanders Wants to End the War on Drugs: Could He Pull It Off as the Next President?

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Catherine LeClair
Catherine LeClair
Catherine is a writer and editor hailing from Maine and living in Brooklyn.
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