Wednesday August 24, 2016
For decades, politicians have either glossed over the topic of marijuana reform, been staunchly opposed or simply avoided the issue all together. However, that’s all changing thanks to cannabis’ growing approval rating. Finally, politicians are treating the issue as more than just a “joke” and proposing policies that would treat it seriously.
The democratic platform has proposed rescheduling cannabis, improving research efforts and decriminalizing possession at a federal level noting the racial disparity associated with criminal marijuana arrests nation-wide. All-in-all, the democratic party has called for a “pathway to legalization” by allowing states to serve as testing grounds for reform without fear of the federal government.
The Democratic Stance Has Changed
Democrats are notoriously more liberal than republicans in terms of marijuana reform, though in the past it was more of a “don’t ask, don’t tell” position. It wasn’t until October of last year when Sen. Bernie Sanders became the first major presidential candidate to come out in full support of marijuana reform. His opposition at the time, Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, wasn’t so sure.
Only a few months ago, Clinton was reluctant to take a position on marijuana legalization despite being in support of medical marijuana programs. Though noting an apparent problem with mass incarceration, she decided it would be best to wait and see how things unfold before taking a stance. This, of course, is still an improvement from her stint as First Lady during which she pushed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, a 1994 bill calling for a “tough-on-crime” approach to even minor drug infractions with mandatory sentencing for drug offenses.
Why Democrats Are Embracing Marijuana Reform
With more than 61 percent of Americans now in support of marijuana reform, it makes sense that a politician trying to win over the hearts of her people would cater to their position. Given the fact that marijuana received more votes in Colorado and Washington than President Obama did back in 2012, it’s safe to say that marijuana on the ballot is particularly enticing, especially to a certain group of voters: millennials.
Though democrats have notoriously favored reform more than republicans, the difference is less pronounced among millennials. While the overall republican party opposes marijuana reform by 50 percent, millennial republicans actually favor marijuana reform by 63 percent. By taking a positive stance in favor of reform, Democrats may not only bring out more voters in their own party, but may entice right-wingers over to their side, too, considering Trump only received a C+ on his marijuana policy stance according to Marijuana Policy Project (his inconsistency and lack of new policy support counts against him).
Sanders’ Gumption Forced Marijuana onto the Democratic Table
Bernie Sanders garnered a lot of support during his presidential campaign, bringing in hundreds of thousands of people to his rallies across the nation. He has been vocal about specific campaigns he hopes to pass and remained in the race until he could see that those platforms would be a part of the democratic platform. Marijuana reform is a large part of that.
Despite breaking the hearts of thousands of supporters across America, Sanders acted very nobly when conceding to Clinton. Well aware of his lack of super delegates, he knew his chance of winning the presidential race was slim to none. Nevertheless, he stayed in the race as long as possible in an attempt to revitalize the democratic party by making it one of the people rather than corporations. He’s also pushed for accountability in congress, noting concern for Clinton’s weak convictions. After his list of requirements had been met – including a modified version of his marijuana reform policy – he willfully conceded to Clinton and is strongly encouraging voters to choose her so that his hard work and dedication to the American people would not be in vain.
Despite Presidential Support, Marijuana Reform is Not Guaranteed
Now that Clinton is on board with marijuana reform (and Trump thinks it should be a state-by-state matter), it seems marijuana reform is in the bag, right?
Not so fast.
With Republicans - and their super conservative views on marijuana policy -- controlling congress, even the most benign marijuana policy proposals could be shot down. They did so just last June by blocking three major marijuana policy moves including the rights of veterans to use cannabis, the ability of cannabis businesses to bank safely, and the ability of the D.C. government to use its funds to establish a legal market in the area. Since congress has more power than the president, a conservative, anti-pot congress could block the progress we’ve been so adamantly hoping for.
Thankfully there’s good news: 88 percent of congress is up for reelection, too! For those who feel congress is out of touch with Americans and favors special interest groups over the good of the people, now is the time to clean house (and senate). So research which members of congress are up for reelection in your state and vote accordingly. We also suggest supporting term limits to help eliminate career politicians who work only to line their own wallets.
Marijuana is officially part of the democratic platform, but that doesn’t mean that a democratic vote will be the end of the battle. There are many government officials that help control the direction of marijuana reform so be sure to vote for all of the right ones!
Do you think federal marijuana policy is about to change? Why or why not?
Photo Credit: Barn Images