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2016 Senate Scorecard

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Senate Bills

Daines/Merkley Veterans Equal Access Amendment

Permits physicians affiliated with the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to recommend cannabis therapy to veterans in states that allow for its therapeutic use. More info

Mikulski Amendment Protecting State Medical Marijuana Laws

Limits the Justice Department’s ability to take criminal action against state-licensed operations that are acting in full compliance with the medical marijuana laws of their states. More info

Merkley Marijuana Banking Amendment

Prohibits the US Treasury Department from using federal funds to take punitive actions against banks that provide financial services to marijuana-related businesses that are operating legally under state laws. More info

'N/A' means that the Senator did not have the opportunity to vote on this amendment.

Senators

  • Tom Udall (D)

    NEW MEXICO

    NORML Grade: B+

    Votes

    ?

    Cosponsor

    S. 683: CARERS

    Comments

    Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., who voted for the budget bill, said through a spokeswoman that he supports the move to call off the dogs with regard to state medical marijuana programs. “Except in cases where state action blatantly deprives people of their constitutional rights or puts them at risk, Sen. Udall doesn’t think the federal government should attempt to overrule voter-approved laws,” spokeswoman Jennifer Talhelm said in a written statement. “Neither of those circumstances is the case with medical marijuana laws. Americans are having a conversation about whether to de-criminalize marijuana at the state level, and Sen. Udall believes this provision lets that conversation continue.” (Link)
    "Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said he doesn’t support legalizing marijuana and neither do most in Congress. He does, however, support New Mexico’s medical marijuana law." “I don’t think there is any federal support for legalization,” Udall told me in an interview. “I don’t see any effort by this Congress or this Senate to legalize. I just don’t see it happening. I’m not pushing for it.” Udall said the perception that people are getting locked up for smoking a little pot is off-base. “As a practical matter we don’t put people in jail for using a small amount of marijuana — nobody is going to jail for using a small amount of marijuana in a personal, home-type situation,” Udall said. “Law enforcement is focused on the drug kingpins and cartels that are working out of Mexico, and they’re focused on people way up the chain — the dealers. Those are the people we should be focused on. Those are the people making the profits and doing the damage.” (Link)

  • Martin Heinrich (D)

    NEW MEXICO

    NORML Grade: B

    Votes

    ?

    Cosponsor

    S. 683: CARERS

    Comments

    Rep. Martin Heinrich, a Democrat who won election to the U.S. Senate last month, said in an interview that the war on drugs “as it has been framed has not been successful.” He said New Mexico’s biggest problem with controlled substances is with hard stuff such as heroin and methamphetamines, not pot. Therefore, Heinrich said, state and federal resources should be aimed primarily at those harder drugs. And as for marijuana? “I certainly support the states being able to use medical marijuana with a prescription from a doctor, there is no question about that,” Heinrich said. “I wouldn’t say I’m briefed enough on the issue to make a commitment beyond that. “I think we need to look very closely at what the real impacts are in Colorado and Washington and what happens in those states as a result and learn from it,” Heinrich said. “That’s going to take some time.” -December 2012 (Link)

  • Kirsten Gillibrand (D)

    NEW YORK

    NORML Grade: B+

    Votes

    ?

    Cosponsor

    *S. 683: CARERS
    S. 134: Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015

    Comments

    “Medical marijuana reform is not just one-dimensional, we can’t just pick and chose one of these challenges to address,” said the Democratic senator as she talked about the legislation introduced several months ago. “A collaborative approach will solve more problems, help more people, and create a better framework for reform.” Sep 2015

  • Chuck Schumer (D)

    NEW YORK

    NORML Grade: B

    Votes

    ?

    Cosponsor

    S. 683: CARERS

    Comments

    "It's a tough issue. We talk about the comparison to alcohol, and obviously alcohol is legal and I'm hardly a prohibitionist, but it does a lot of damage," Schumer said. "The view I have, and I'm a little cautious on this, is let's see how the state experiments work." He added that lawmakers should view states like Colorado and Washington, who have legalized recreational pot, as "laboratories" to see if legalization could work on a larger scale. "I'd be a little cautious here at the federal level, and see the laboratories of the states, see their outcomes before we make a decision," he said. Todd then asked the senator if he believes states should be allowed to legalize marijuana without federal intervention. "Yes," Schumer said. "I think having the states experiment is a good idea." -January 2014 (Link)

  • Thom Tillis (R)

    NORTH CAROLINA

    NORML Grade: C

    Votes

    ?

    Cosponsor

    S. 1333: Therapeutic Hemp Medical Access Act of 2015
    *S. 3077: Marijuana Effective Drug Studies (MEDS) Act of 2016
    *S. 3269: Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act

    Comments

    Marijuana: Do you support efforts to decriminalize and/or legalize marijuana? Tillis: Supports low-THC extract for childhood epilepsy, opposes other medical marijuana 10/19/2014 (Link)

  • Richard Burr (R)

    NORTH CAROLINA

    NORML Grade: D

    Votes

    ?

    Comments

    (Link)
    8/10/2010 "For example, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who holds the dubious distinction of the being the member of Congress who has accepted the largest amount from pharmaceutical firms, has taken a stance against state legalization of marijuana." 5/28/2011 (Link)

  • Heidi Heitkamp (D)

    NORTH DAKOTA

    NORML Grade: D

    Votes

    ?

    Comments

    When the District of Columbia decriminalized the possession of small amounts of pot, some indication came as to where various senators stand on the issue. Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota said she sees her role in the matter as narrow. To “reverse what a city would do,” she said, would cause constitutional problems and serious fiscal consequences. She told CQ Roll Call she thinks, “the District is entitled to a whole lot of self-determination.” 6/1/2014 (Link)

  • John Hoeven (R)

    NORTH DAKOTA

    NORML Grade: D

    Votes

    ?

    No sponsorships or comments

  • Sherrod Brown (D)

    OHIO

    NORML Grade: D

    Votes

    ?

    Comments

    "While it is important to consider the potential medical benefits of marijuana, particularly for terminally ill patients whose quality of life may hinge on effective pain management, there are risks associated with making marijuana legally available. The widespread popularity and use of this drug among our nation’s youth, as well as its role as a “pipeline” drug (potentially leading to the use of heroin and other lethal drugs) distinguishes it from other controlled substances, and we must be particularly careful before creating the potential for expanded access and use." 10/8/2010 (Link)
    "Sen. Sherrod Brown said Thursday he has serious concerns about the push to legalize marijuana in Ohio. "There are far too many" unanswered questions about the impact of legalizing marijuana, Brown, D-Ohio, told reporters in a conference call.H e said he was particularly concerned about children consuming pot baked into food products. "I want to make sure children don't get access to marijuana in that way or other ways," Brown said. "I have significant concerns about it," Brown said. "It's a step that we should take with great caution." Brown said he does support legalizing marijuana for medical purposes. "The evidence is in that it works for a number of patients" to help manage their illnesses, the Ohio Democrat said. 7/9/2015

  • Rob Portman (R)

    OHIO

    NORML Grade: F

    Votes

    ?

    Comments

    Republican Senator Rob Portman admits to smoking marijuana when he was younger. 5/6/2013 (Link)
    "We should not throw in the towel," Portman said. "Instead, we should be saying to young people, 'There is a better way for you to have a healthy and productive life, and that's not to get into drug use and drug abuse.'" "Portman, who like many of his generation has admitted to smoking marijuana in his youth, said he does not support legalization. Instead, he said, efforts should focus on drug prevention and rehabilitation. He mentioned his ongoing efforts to support drug prevention and recovery through the Drug-Free Communities Act."What I support is a whole different approach with regard to drug use, and that is spending less money on the prosecution and incarceration side and more money on prevention and education, which I know works." He said a community-wide coalition he started about 20 years ago, focusing on drug abuse in his hometown of Cincinnati (which he represented in the House of Representatives), "has had great success, and relative to other areas that don't have coalitions, these coalitions are doing a great job." The Drug-Free Communities Act, for which which Portman is trying to get congressional reauthorization, has helped establish about 2,000 such coalitions, Portman said."So that's the approach that I think we ought to be taking," he said. Legalizing marijuana "is the wrong message to send," he said, "and instead I think we should be focused more on prevention and education. I know it works." As for his own pot smoking, Portman told The Plain Dealer in 2005 that it occurred when he was in school. "This was an era when almost everybody did it," the senator, now 59, said. "It's something I regret." 5/15/2015 “I’m very concerned about this,” Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said of Issue 3. With the heroin epidemic ravaging Ohio, Portman said, “we should not be sending the message to our young people that this is somehow socially acceptable” to use drugs.Portman said the 10-farm limit on commercial cultivation makes Issue 3 even more objectionable. “I don’t understand why the voters of Ohio should be giving certain private entities the ability to corner the market on anything,” Portman said. “That’s just wrong.” 9/13/2015 (Link)

  • Jim Inhofe (R)

    OKLAHOMA

    NORML Grade: D

    Votes

    ?

    No sponsorships or comments

  • James Lankford (R)

    OKLAHOMA

    NORML Grade: F

    Votes

    ?

    Comments

    "But Lankford said Democratic leaders in states that have legalized marijuana are beginning to rethink that policy and that he would have a hard time supporting such a move. “I just don’t think that’s the best thing we can do for our kids,” Lankford said." 10/7/2014 (Link)
    On marijuana: “I have seen first-hand the damage it has done to families.” 11/2/2014 (Link)
    "Sen. James Lankford proposed Thursday that Indian tribes cultivating or selling marijuana on their lands be stripped of federal funds. Marijuana cultivation and sale are illegal under federal law. However, the Obama administration has recently given tribes flexibility in how they want to approach enforcement of marijuana laws on their reservations. That flexibility may even extend to allowing American Indian tribes to legalize marijuana on their land and to tribal governments profiting from the sale. Lankford’s bill would prohibit that…Tribes receive federal funds, including grants, from numerous federal departments and agencies for the array of services they provide." 8/11/2015 (Link)

  • Jeff Merkley (D)

    OREGON

    NORML Grade: A

    Votes

    ?

    Cosponsor

    S. 683: CARERS
    *S 134: Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015
    *S.1333: Therapeutic Hemp Medical Access Act of 2015
    *S. 2504: Marijuana Advertising in Legal States (MAILS) Act

    Amendments

    Veterans Equal Access Amendment
    Marijuana Banking Amendment

    Comments

    "U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley plans to vote for Measure 91, which would legalize marijuana for recreational use in Oregon, making him the first U.S. senator to do so, according to Talking Points Memo. "I lean in support of it. I think folks on both sides of the argument make a good case," Merkley said. "And there is concern about a series of new products — and we don't have a real track record from Colorado and Washington. But I feel on balance that we spend a lot of money on our criminal justice system in the wrong places and I lean in favor of this ballot measure." 10/27/2014 (Link)
    “Forcing businessmen and businesswomen who are operating legally under Oregon state law to shuttle around gym bags full of cash is an invitation to crime and malfeasance. That must end,” said Merkley. “The people of Oregon have spoken, and the federal government should make sure that legal marijuana businesses can operate properly within our banking system. It’s time to let banks serve these legal businesses without fearing devastating reprisals from the federal government.” 7/9/2015 (Link)

  • Ron Wyden (D)

    OREGON

    NORML Grade: B+

    Votes

    ?

    Cosponsor

    S 683 - CARERS
    *S.1333 Therapeutic Hemp Medical Access Act of 2015
    *S 1726 Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act of 2015

    Comments

    "The serious effects that illegal drugs have on healthy families and communities cannot be ignored. Decades of scientific research shows that repeated use of illegal substances greatly increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and other fatal health conditions. Even so-called “soft drugs,” like marijuana, adversely affect memory and attention span. They can also serve as a “gateway” drugs that lead to more serious drug use. I have therefore consistently voted to strengthen drug enforcement, education, and prevention measures." 7/15/2010 (Link)
    "Another wondered whether marijuana should be legal. Wyden said he wasn’t yet committed to either side of that issue, though he said it should be legal for Oregon farmers to grow industrial hemp, which is found in legal products on Oregon shelves." 10/18/2013 (Link)
    “In my view, keeping the ban on growing hemp makes about as much sense as instituting a ban on portobello mushrooms,” Wyden, who introduced a hemp legalization bill earlier this year, said on the Senate floor. “There’s no reason to outlaw a product that’s perfectly safe because of what it’s related to.” 6/4/2015 (Link)
    "Oregon Senator Ron Wyden Stands Up For Cannabis Banking" 12/27/15 (Link)

  • Bob Casey, Jr. (D)

    PENNSYLVANIA

    NORML Grade: B

    Votes

    ?

    Cosponsor

    S. 134: Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015
  • Pat Toomey (R)

    PENNSYLVANIA

    NORML Grade: D

    Votes

    ?

    Comments

    "I applaud this commonsense effort to cut red tape and help facilitate more research into medical marijuana. If there's a chance that marijuana derivatives like cannabidiol can help patients in Pennsylvania, Washington should not be needlessly interfering with scientific research that may lead to worthwhile medical treatments." 6/22/2015 (Link)

  • Jack Reed (D)

    RHODE ISLAND

    NORML Grade: B

    Votes

    ?

    No sponsorships or comments

  • Sheldon Whitehouse (D)

    RHODE ISLAND

    NORML Grade: B

    Votes

    ?

    Cosponsor

    S. 2557 SUCCESS Act

    Comments

    "We know that marijuana can provide relief for patients suffering from serious illnesses,” Whitehouse told GoLocal. “I applaud Rhode Island's effort to make it available for that purpose. As Rhode Island and other states implement their laws, they will benefit from clear federal guidance regarding national law-enforcement priorities. To that end, I am pleased that the Department of Justice has committed to working with states to eliminate legal uncertainty and to prevent unnecessary litigation over state laws." 9/12/2013 (Link)
    Added Senator Whitehouse, “As a former prosecutor, I’m keenly aware of the damage drugs cause in our communities, but I’ve also seen how commonsense reforms can benefit both drug offenders and their families. In Rhode Island, we’ve seen how drug courts for low-level offenders can help addicts get the treatment they need while also reducing the burden on our prison system. At the federal level, I’ve encouraged broader use of drug courts, and I’m pleased that the Senate is considering smarter sentencing policies and more effective re-entry programs. I look forward to discussing these important issues.” 10/9/2013 (Link)

  • Lindsey Graham (R)

    SOUTH CAROLINA

    NORML Grade: B-

    Votes

    ?

    Cosponsor

    S. 1333 Therapeutic Hemp Medical Access Act of 2015
    S. 683 CARERS Act of 2015

    Comments

    “I don’t see a real need to change the law up here [in DC]. If marijuana is half as bad as alcohol, that’s probably enough reason to keep it illegal.” 8/10/2010 (Link)
    “I’m against legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes. But when it comes to medical marijuana and this [CBD] oil, I think politicians should embrace what makes sense. When it comes to issues like this, I don’t want to be academic in thought. This is about people. This is about families with sick children. Why should someone in my position get in the way of helping a child, if you can reasonably and logically do it?” 2/24/2014 (Link)
    “Attorney General Eric Holder has announced that the Justice Department will not prosecute purveyors of medical marijuana provided they are in compliance with state and local laws. I do not support this policy, as I feel it is tantamount to federal legalization of medical marijuana and creates an inconsistent federal enforcement policy between states.” - Letter to a constituent 10/3/2014

  • Tim Scott (R)

    SOUTH CAROLINA

    NORML Grade: D

    Votes

    ?

    Comments

    "There is growing scientific evidence documenting the health risks associated with marijuana use including adverse effects on the lungs, the cardiovascular system, and possibly the immune and reproductive systems. However, I also understand the great importance of preserving the rights bestowed to the States." 7/10/2011 (Link)

This information is continually being updated. If you have an additional public comment that we do not have record of or any additional information please email politics@norml.org.