March 3 Election Brings Gains for Marijuana Reform Candidates, Measures

This page will be updated as more results become available. 

March 4, 2020 – In the Democratic presidential primary held yesterday in California, Bernie Sanders, who has an A+ rating from NORML based on his policy to deschedule marijuana and legalize it nationwide, is carrying California with 33.6% of the vote. Ex-VP Joe Biden, who has consistently opposed cannabis as a “gateway drug” and now says he favors “decriminalizing” cannabis, has a C- grade from NORML and has won only 24.8% of the vote in California (so far).

Michael Bloomberg, with a D rating from NORML, got 14.4% of the vote, and has now dropped out of the race, pledging to support Biden. Releasing a plan to legalize marijuana days before the election didn’t seem to have helped Elizabeth Warren, who won only 12.3% of the vote and has now suspended her campaign.


Four out of seven local cannabis reform measures on the ballot are carrying in the state:

In Trinity County,  Measure A  to establish taxes on marijuana cultivation and sales is carrying by 52% of the vote.

The City of Avalon had two measures on the ballot: Measure E to expand its allowance of medical delivery to medical/recreational deliveries is carrying by 60% of the vote. And Measure  F  to allow for a cannabis business storefront is winning by 66%.

The City of El Monte is voting 70% to 30% to tax cannabis businesses with  Measure PC, making its 2/3 threshold (because it earmarks where the taxes will be spent); however opponents are mounting an initiative campaign to ban cannabis businesses for the November ballot.

In the minus column, the City of San Fernando is passing its Measure MJ to ban all commercial cannabis by a 55% – 45% margin. And both competing measures to allow cannabis businesses in Kern County are losing, by upwards of 58% of the vote.

In the Los Angeles District Attorney race, it looks like incumbent Jackie Lacey is beating her progressive challengers, former SF DA George Gasçon (27%) and public defender Rachel Rossi (21%). Lacey announced last month she would expunge 66,000 past marijuana convictions in LA, something Gasçon pioneered in San Francisco. It remains unknown whether Lacey will win over 50% of the vote, giving her the office outright, or if she will face a run off in November.


In Duncan Hunter’s former San Diego Congressional District 50, Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar is leading with 34% of the vote, followed by Republicans Darrell Issa at 25% and Carl DeMaio at 21%. Campa-Najjar has the support of San Diego NORML. Issa has a dismal voting record on marijuana.

In District 25, the Los Angeles-area seat that Katie Hill is vacating, Democratic Assemblywoman Christy Smith is leading with 34% of the vote against Republican challengers Mike Garcia with 29% and drug warrior Steve Knight with 19%. Smith has a good voting record on cannabis.

In the 42nd district (southwest Riverside county), it looks like marijuana opponent Ken Calvert (R) will face a challenge from progressive Democrat Liam O’Mara in November. O’Mara’s website says, “The war on drugs was a bad idea from the start, and drug enforcement needs to end – drug addiction is a medical issue, not a criminal one, and I am for decriminalization and amnesty for non-violent users.”

But in District 21, the Central Valley district where Democrat TJ Cox narrowly unseated Republican David Valadao in 2016, Valadao is leading with 53% of the vote with Dems Cox and Ricardo De La Fuente trailing with 36% and 8% respectively. Cox is friendly to marijuana but the others aren’t.

And in the huge 8th Congressional district stretching from Mono Lake to Twentynine Palms that is being vacated by Paul Cook, Republican Assemblyman Jay Obernolte has taken 36% of the vote, followed by Democrat Chris Bubser with 26.5% and Tea Party Republican Tim Donnelly at 22.3%. Obernolte has a “D” rating from NORML. In 2018, he voted against AB 1793, to expunge past marijuana convictions and also voted against bills to allow for cannabis compassion programs, veterinarians to recommend cannabis, and schoolchildren to use medical marijuana. He did vote yes on a bill (AB2020) to expand places where cannabis events can be held and AJR 27 to ask the DOJ to allow cannabusinesses in California.


In Senate District 17 (Santa Cruz), Democrat John Laird is leading with 42% over Republican Vicki Nohrden (36%) and Democrat Maria Cadenas (19%). Laird is supported by local marijuana reform advocates.

In state Senate District 13, the Silicon Valley seat being vacated by Jerry Hill, Democrat Josh Becker is neck-and-neck with Republican Alexander Glew. Both are winning about 21% of the vote and will face off in November. Democrat Sally Lieber came in third with 16%. Becker had positive, thoughtful responses to Cal NORML’s candidate survey, and favors legalization.

And in the Special Election in District 25 (Palm Springs), Republican Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez is coming in with 41% of the vote with Democrats Elizabeth Romero earning 22% and Joy Silver 21%. Melendez has not voted well for marijuana; the others are in favor of legalization.


Voters in Los Angeles reported standing in line for as long as four hours to vote, as “new vote centers that opened 10 days before election day were part of a revamped system that consolidated roughly 4,500 voting locations into 978 vote centers in neighborhoods stretching from Lancaster to Long Beach….Sanders filed a complaint in federal court late Tuesday, asking the county’s vote centers to stay open an extra two hours, arguing that voters were denied their constitutional right. The county registrar denied the request.” (LA Times).

California Senator and former presidential candidate Kamala Harris tweeted 20 minutes before polls closed that, “You’re allowed to vote as long as you’re in line by 8 p.m.—no matter how long it takes.” She also tweeted, “Waiting in long lines for hours to vote should not happen anywhere in America. We must do better.”

In Beverly Hills, city spokesman Keith Sterling estimated people some waited two hours or more. The city of 35,000 sued the county, calling the new voting system interface severely flawed. “There’s a lot of frustration, (and) people walk away. I don’t know if they’ll come back. I hope they do,” Beverly Hills City Council member Julian Gold said.

According to the AP, “election workers in 15 counties, including Fresno, Napa and Sacramento, were unable to connect to the statewide voter registration database.” Sanders’s complaint also alleged that in one LA location, check-in stations and voting machines were not working.

Full results for California won’t be known for weeks, as mail-in and provisional ballots are counted. With its top-two primary system, the two candidates with the most votes will compete in November for the win, regardless of party.

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