In 11 states, voters will be choosing their next governor on Election Day, Tuesday, November 3, 2020. In many races, there is a stark contrast between the candidates. Governors have a tremendous impact on cannabis policies in their states, from signing or vetoing bills to overseeing agencies that can implement, expand, or obstruct existing marijuana laws.
Here’s MPP’s round-up of where major party gubernatorial candidates stand on cannabis policy reform. For each state, the more supportive major party candidate is listed first.
Green = supports legalizing cannabis for adults’ use
Orange = unknown, uncertain, or less supportive
Red = opposed or much less supportive
After you review this gubernatorial voter guide, you can find other cannabis policy voter guides here. Check out our voter guide to state ballot measures, along with guides to state legislative races in a few key states.
Incumbent Gov. John Carney (D) is still undecided on legalization, but he has signed some important cannabis reforms into law, including medical cannabis expansion (2019); expanded expungement (2019); decriminalization for juveniles (2019); and adding anxiety as a qualifying condition for medical cannabis (2017). He did not respond to the candidate survey from the Delaware Cannabis Advocacy Network. Julianne Murray, the Republican nominee for governor, is not known to have publicly expressed a position on cannabis policy and did not respond to the candidate survey from the Delaware Cannabis Advocacy Network.
Dr. Woody Myers (D) supports medical cannabis and decriminalization but is not sold on full legalization. In June, he unveiled a criminal justice plan that includes decriminalizing marijuana.
Incumbent Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) said he wouldn’t support legalization until federal law is changed, at which point the state could review it. He believes in the gateway theory and said he's not in favor of medical marijuana or decriminalization because the federal government still categorizes cannabis as a ‘dangerous’ drug.
In a July town hall hosted by Missourians for Patient Access, Nicole Galloway (D) said that as governor she would do a complete review of the state’s medical cannabis program to ensure it is fair and patient-focused. She also expressed support for legalization that includes expungement.
Incumbent Gov. Mike Parson (R) has overseen the implementation of the state’s medical cannabis program, but it has been plagued with some licensing woes. Parson does not favor full legalization.
Montana Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney(D) supports medical marijuana and the citizens’ initiatives to legalize adult-use marijuana. According to his campaign website, “[Mike] sat down with the organizers of the initiative early on and pledged his support. Mike believes we need to make sure we implement a program that works for Montana, including having protections to keep marijuana out of the hands of minors, implementing a proper testing system to make sure the marijuana being sold is safe, and ensuring any revenue from the taxation and sale of marijuana is structured in a way that benefits Montana’s budget in the long run.” U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte (R) has expressed some support for medical cannabis but is opposed to legalization. While in Congress, he has not supported any positive cannabis policy reforms.
State Sen. Dan Feltes, the Democratic nominee for governor, supports legalizing, regulating, and taxing cannabis for adults’ use. According to an article in The Concord Monitor, Feltes says he supports legalization and regulation under certain “eminently achievable conditions” such as “no gummies.” After the September 8 primary, he publicly endorsed the legalization plan that had been put forward by his opponent. Gov. Chris Sununu (R)signed the decriminalization bill into law in 2017, and he also signed bills adding chronic pain and PTSD as qualifying conditions for medical cannabis. However, he vetoed a medical cannabis home cultivation bill in 2019, and he has opposed adult-use legalization.
Shelley Lenz (D) is not known to have publicly expressed a position on cannabis policy.
Gov. Doug Burgum(R)has signed several important reforms into law, including both decriminalization and several medical cannabis expansions in 2019. In 2018, he said he was against the “full, unfettered legalization of recreational marijuana.”
Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox (R) supports medical cannabis but is against full legalization. In response to a candidate questionnaire from the Salt Lake Tribune asking whether Utah should join its neighboring states in legalizing recreational marijuana, Cox replied, “No. Utah should continue to support the compromise that was passed ... to allow the responsible use of medical cannabis under the direction of licensed professionals.” Christopher Peterson (D) supports medical cannabis but prefers a wait-and-see approach regarding legalization. In response to the candidate questionnaire from the Salt Lake Tribune asking whether Utah should join its neighboring states in legalizing recreational marijuana, Peterson replied, “I support allowing physicians to prescribe medically necessary cannabis to help those suffering from illness or pain. On the other hand, Utah voters and the Legislature have not supported legalization for recreational use. I agree and believe Utah should wait for further evidence and scientific study of the outcomes in our neighboring states.”
Vermont Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman (D) is a longtime champion of cannabis policy reform and an ally of MPP. As a senator, Zuckerman co-sponsored decriminalization and was also the lead sponsor of legislation that proposed a taxation and regulatory system for cannabis in Vermont. Gov. Phil Scott(R) reluctantly signed the non-commercial legalization bill in 2018 and is taking a "wait and see" approach to the pending legislation to tax and regulate cannabis sales in Vermont.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee(D) has been a champion of his state’s legal marijuana market and defended it when the federal government seemed to be considering a crackdown. He believes cannabis should be legalized nationwide. In Washington State, Inslee launched the Marijuana Justice Initiative to pardon thousands of people with marijuana possession convictions on their records and is working to diversify the cannabis industry to help heal the harm prohibition has wrought on specific communities. Loren Culp (R) is a police chief who acknowledged that cannabis is legal in Washington State and said he has no plans to change that. In an interview, Culp acknowledged, "As a police officer, I have never had to fight someone who was high on marijuana."