Pubdate: Tue, 27 Oct 2015
Source: Boston Herald (MA)
Copyright: 2015 The Boston Herald, Inc
Note: Prints only very short LTEs.
Author: Kimberly Atkins


WASHINGTON - As U.S. Sen. Rand Paul's presidential campaign goes to 
pot, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders stands to roll up some of his 
supporters - marijuana advocates and weed purveyors.

Sanders, the first presidential candidate to support marijuana 
legalization, got a bump from the nation's largest pot advocacy group 
yesterday. The Marijuana Policy Project boosted Sanders' voter guide 
report card score from a "B" to an "A" after the Democratic Socialist 
said he'd vote for Nevada's pot legalization initiative if he lived 
in the state.

That places Sanders ahead of Paul, who scored an "A-." And it's not 
just blowing smoke: The move could mean growing vocal and financial 
support from what could plume into a $4 billion industry by the end 
of 2016. With a number of states - including Massachusetts - on track 
to put the issue of marijuana legalization on the ballot next year, 
the burgeoning industry is starting to flex its political muscle.

"The issue is front and center in a way that it hasn't been before in 
a presidential election," said Taylor West, deputy director of 
marijuana business trade group the National Cannabis Industry Association.

As of Sept. 30, the trade group is Paul's second-biggest campaign 
contributor, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive 
Politics. But its $12,000 total contribution from the group and its 
related PAC pales in comparison to the $1.25 million that marijuana 
rights activist Scott Banister gave to the pro-Paul super PAC 
Concerned American Voters.

With his campaign floundering, Paul's loss could be Sanders' gain.

"That's a huge deal," West said of Sanders' statement. "That was a 
huge messaging moment."

Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, said more 
candidates are responding to growing public opinion in favor of 
legalization, including those who don't support legalization. Former 
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, for example, initiated a meeting with 
the advocacy group to hear about the effect of legalization in 
Colorado. Other candidates, like U.S. Sen Ted Cruz, have traded a 
flat anti-legalization stance for one that supports states' rights to 
decide for themselves.

Pot's place in a presidential campaign had already changed 
dramatically from Bill Clinton's awkward "I didn't inhale" admission 
to Barack Obama's quip: "I inhaled, frequently. That was the point." 
But with the legal landscape as unclear as a billow of smoke, it's 
uncertain what power a pro-pot president will wield, even if elected.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom