Note: “Political Implications of Cannabis Commerce” is also Part 10 of Cannabis Commerce in the USA, found in its entirety here.

For the foreseeable future, the “other green economy,” medical marijuana, and the effort to propel legalization forward will profoundly effect every political election held in the United States. Make no mistake about it – marijuana proponents make up a significant voting bloc.

While arch-conservatives may balk at full-on legalization, many have softened their resistance to medical marijuana. In the court of public opinion, medical marijuana’s palliative effect on those suffering from terminal illness has graduated from conjecture to fact – in the minds of liberals and conservatives alike.

What does the war in Afghanistan have to do with cannabis commerce?

If policing the planet, with a particular emphasis on Afghanistan, is as important to the administration as it appears to be, it might be wise to placate liberal, peace-loving, pro-marijuana voters, who put a Democrat in the White House, by ending  prohibition. Policing the planet is impractical when you’re no longer in office.

In November of 2008, there was only one candidate marijuana proponents could consider voting for – Obama, the candidate who admitted he enjoyed marijuana, and had no conscientious objection to its controlled use as medical marijuana. Conversely, opponent John McCain was videoed blatantly ignoring pleas for reform by patients in wheelchairs.

The decision was clear; if you were for marijuana, you were for Obama.

During his campaign, candidate Obama listed pressing issues as reviving the economy, crusading for health care reform, reining in big business and Wall Street, and, oh by the way, redeploying troops from Iraq to Afghanistan. He’s done all that. You can’t say the man’s not honest.

It’s that redeployment that may prove to be Obama’s undoing. His liberal electoral base hoped all that posturing about Afghanistan was just campaign rhetoric, designed to show he was tough enough to lead the nation. Unfortunately, according to Andrew J. Basevich, writing for The Boston Globe, Obama has perpetuated the Bush administration’s effort to reprogram the Arab world with “homeland values:”

Little evidence exists to suggest that US exertions, whether aimed at liberating, transforming, or dominating the Islamic world, are achieving success. No matter: Washington shows no sign of relenting. In Congress, new appropriations to fund the war in Afghanistan are pending (June 2010) – $58 billion – with passage assured.

In addition to increasing the depth of military expenditures, Obama has expanded the breadth of operations. According to The London Times, “Covert operations conducted by US Special Forces have escalated from the 60 countries we were operating in under the Bush administration, to the 75 we’re secretly operating in now.”

The ravages of heroin have stunted the growth of a generation of Afghanis – another validation for Imperialist troops to torch the countryside. But if one Afghani sets foot on a tobacco field in Virginia, OMG!

Military madness, yes — civil liberty, no

There’s a problem with that tact, as it relates to Obama’s political direction, the path of the nation, and the fate of the legalization movement. Pro-marijuana types, who voted Obama in, tend to like things peaceful in their home environments, their communities, and the world at large.

The more they graze in the grass, the less they’re inclined to support Special Forces operating covertly in 75 countries.

The military mindset just doesn’t jibe real well with this voting bloc.

What does?

  1. Freedom to smoke, eat, or ingest marijuana products for either medicinal or recreational purposes.
  2. Freedom from being harassed and/or arrested by agents of the “war on drugs” when purchasing, growing or ingesting marijuana.
  3. Freedom to profit from cannabis commerce in ingenious ways.
  4. Freedom to pay marijuana taxes to fund social programs.

In fairness, there has been some progress in some of those areas under Obama.

But only a fortunate few Americans can take advantage of that stumbling progress. And they wouldn’t be able to if they didn’t have chronic diseases, or were pretending to have them, in order to purchase herb in the safety and convenience of dispensaries and collectives.

Even though uniform access to marijuana is presently the most glaring civil liberty denied the American public, Obama has made it clear he believes states and localities should decide the fate of marijuana. Therein lies the rub. Quite a few voters would like the Chief Executive to exhibit more initiative. Ending the hypocrisy of allowing tobacco and alcohol use for all – while prohibiting the use of marijuana for most Americans – fits the bill.

Choices, choices, choices

Options for about-to-be former Obama loyalists, turned off by the country’s role as self-appointed world policemen, and disappointed that only the chronically ill can purchase “meds” in a few places, in a few states, include:

  1. Waiting around until 2012, or sooner for local elections, and voting Obama and other lukewarm Democrats out. This could actually include a political first: the pro-pot bloc voting for Republicans bold enough to seize the “higher ground.”
  2. Expending a great amount of effort on the local and state levels, for who knows how long, trying to effect total legalization without presidential mandate.
  3. Marching on Washington, DC and demanding legalization.

People get ready

Now it’s year two of the Obama regime. Has repealing marijuana prohibition become the biggest issue facing the USA in 2010? Probably not, but, as we’ve seen, it’s an issue that gets an awful lot of publicity – and begs for resolution.

Even though repealing prohibition would have a vitalizing effect on the economy, Obama doesn’t view collecting marijuana taxation revenue as a worthwhile strategy for growing the economy. We know that’s his stance.  However, the rationale is presently MIA (missing in action).

As we’re only halfway through year two, with the economy still stuck in quicksand, for the time being most pro-pot liberals have given President Obama the benefit of the doubt.

However, come year three of the Obama regime, when the DC atmosphere gets a little steamy in the summer of 2011 – people get ready, there’s a train a-coming.

Get ready for what, you ask?

The march on Washington – a highly effective tactic

The March on Washington is a time-honored, highly effective tactic historically employed by disenfranchised groups of all creeds. When large, unified groups feel discriminated against by the federal government, that may be the only action left to take. Especially when it’s proved so successful in the past.

The 1963 “I have a dream” march worked out pretty well. Who’s ready for Marijuanamarch 2011?

Marches on Washington have worked like a charm for effecting Women’s Rights, Civil Rights, Native American Rights, Gay Rights, and Pro-Choice Rights — to name a few. Ask the ghosts of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon if marching on Washington altered public opinion, their political careers, or the course of the Vietnam War. There wouldn’t be a Martin Luther King Day if Dr. King didn’t deliver the “I have a dream” speech at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

One of the best phrases in King’s speech was “the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.” He was referring to the federal policy of gradually allowing each state and locality to come around (or not come around) to allowing “negroes” to vote, just as states and localities can get around (or not get around) to legalizing marijuana in 2010. Gradualism, or marching on Washington: those are your choices.

Dr. King & Co. made the proactive choice. What decision will we make, fifty years later, when the right to have, grow, and trade marijuana is a basic civil liberty that should be guaranteed by the federal government and isn’t? Standing down while states and localities slosh it out is no different than allowing localities like Selma, Alabama to decide which races can and can’t vote. Without a rethink, things are going to heat up.

For an incumbent president, when millions of people improvise a tent city on the Capitol mall . . . rest up . . . then parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, brandishing banners and placards, that can be a little disconcerting. When your name and image is carried through the streets by people convinced you’re the one blocking them from getting what they deserve . . . the temptation to rethink your position takes on added urgency.

The message marching sends is simple: “OK, Mr. President, you know what we want, you’ve shown no desire to give it to us, even though you’re aware public opinion polls conducted by agencies from The New York Times to The University of Cincinnati’s Institute for Policy Research indicate that the majority of Americans are pro-legalization. You’ve been hoping we’d just go away. But not only are we not going away, let’s see you ignore us, while millions of us bellow ‘Legalize It’ through bullhorns – a wrought iron fence away from the White House lawn.”

It’s easy to ignore what you can’t see. Marches on Washington, perfect fodder for The History Channel, are impossible to ignore. Assuming the embittered souls are willing to accept arrest in the shadow of the Washington (hemp grower) Monument – with every camera on earth beaming the confrontation to the far corners of the globe – things tend to work out in their favor.

Would students swell the ranks?

Traditionally, students have stood at the forefront of political protest movements. These are not traditional times. Those of us ancient enough, and coherent enough, to remember civil disobedience at it height, have to shake our heads at the political apathy demonstrated by students in 2010. Taken as a group, today’s students appear disinterested in antiwar demonstrations, massive or minimal.

But just try to take away a right students hold inalienable: the right to party! In a peculiar twist, the same apolitical students aren’t the least bit bashful about congregating in support of their beloved herb.

Smoke-ins celebrating 420 (April 20, Earth Day) are held all over the country. In April, 20,000 students toked up as one organism on the Colorado University campus in Boulder. There were so many of them, resolutely flaunting big phattys, campus regents who had threatened intervention chose instead to “let it be.”

So, it stands to reason that the “leaders of tomorrow,” who want their buds and want them now, will show for a march on Washington. In droves.

Flashbacks to civil disobedience

“High hopes” for the success of a march on Washington depend on boomers (those born in the ‘50s and ‘60s) mentoring today’s students in the way of the demonstration. Quite a few citizens in the boomer demographic look forward to the comfort of their retirement years – sans restrictions on certain magic herbs with proven medicinal benefits.

Boomer memory banks recall holding rallies and practicing civil disobedience. Berkeley in the sixties springs to mind. They know the value of impassioned speakers. They’ll put out the call for music tastemakers, always delighted to perform gratis at epic events held before millions of pot-ential CD buyers.

And boomers know demonstrations actually work, because they’ve worked in their lifetimes. And maybe . . . just maybe . . . a whole bunch of them wouldn’t mind one last crack at political activism before their Social Security benefits kick in.

Walking a tightrope

President Obama has to realize he’s walking a tightrope. Surely, his advisors point out the gravity of the situation. So, what gives?

Well . . . what if Obama wants there to be a march on Washington?

If that form of civil obedience occurs, with anywhere near the turnout I foresee, Obama can save face with prohibition proponents. He can rightfully state it wasn’t my idea to “legalize drugs.” No, he was forced to. As a good chief executive, he was just responding to the “will of the people,” as per his presidential mandate.

Makes perfect sense. Obama has said, “If the voters make that decision (to legalize), that’s fine.”

Well, two million marchers translate to two million voters marching to the polls to enact legalization. And these marijuana-minded millions won’t be marching for crumbs – that is, restricted dispensary, collective, or caregiver access for a minority with chronic illnesses – they’ll be beating the drums for medicinal, recreational, and professional use for everyone. And they’d get all of it.

A reverse Boston Tea Party

In a sense, marijuana minions will be marching to enact a reverse Boston tea party; instead of demonstrating against taxation without representation, supporters will be marching to insure representation with taxation. They’ll be marching to insure that a promising, multi-billion dollar industry, will be taxed like any other multi-billion dollar industry, with one enticing exception: pot can be taxed even more than other multi-billion dollar industries, because it’s in everyone’s best interest to enforce a small, but significant, excise tax.

The Cannabis Commerce prediction: if President Obama continues fence sitting, a March On Washington will take place in the summer of 2011 or 2012. It will be a major media event, dominating headlines before, during, and after. At that point, if Obama continues standing down on marijuana prohibition while policing the planet without letup, walking a tightrope morphs into walking the plank.

Opportunistic Republicans can seize the higher ground

Some of the opposition looking to seize the “higher ground” from the Obama administration will be Republicans!

That is not a misprint. You read that correctly. I typed it, I meant it. I’ve considered it long and hard. Allow me to present my case. If you still want to fit me for a straightjacket, go ahead.

First of all, the “higher ground” play has going for it a tremendous element of surprise. It will work if you’re a Republican candidate for Chief Executive, congress, or dogcatcher. I know what you’re thinking. “Come out in favor of pot? A Republican? Oh, no. That would never happen!”

Is that so? In a country where a pro wrestler became governor of Minnesota, a comedian became senator from Minnesota, two movie stars became governor of California, and someone who spent his formative years in Indonesia became president, tell me again why it could never happen? This isn’t Iran. This is the “land of opportunity,” where politicians come out of left field (or in this case, right field) all the time.

Question: who is the highest-ranking government official that has been consistently favorable to cannabis commerce?

Here’s a hint: Pumping Iron.

Yes, it’s none other than “The Governator,” Ah-nold Schwarzenegger, who is most assuredly not a Democrat. The same Governor of California who told GQ “That is not a drug. It’s a leaf.” The guy’s done everything but meet the press in a guinea-t revealing leaf tattoos.

It’s fair to say Schwarzenegger knows something about taking advantage of opportunities.

California bankruptcy schmancruptcy, here’s a human, or uberman, that has proven he can do anything. Anyone who can pump up as Mr. Olympia seven times, smash all box-office records in Hollywood as an action star, and become governor of our most populous state is equally capable winning the presidency.

It seems Schwarzenegger’s classic torso, no less chiseled than Michelangelo’s David, and his onscreen Popeye-like heroics have been delighting stoners forever. Really, what’s the difference between toking up to Commando or The Inaugural Address? Good theater is good theater.

Alas, native-born Austrians can’t be Commando in Chief.

Nonetheless, Schwarzenegger’s openness toward cannabis commerce has fostered an atmosphere of sanity. When the Governator authorized the state BOE (Board of Equalization) to study how much potential tax revenue could be generated through marijuana taxation, California’s dalliance with legalization went into overdrive. So far, California is the only state to have conducted such a study. Traditional media reported it far and wide.

420 in Sacramento?

Schwarzenegger is also the first governor to preside over a November ballot initiative to control and tax marijuana. His stance on that is virtually a duplicate of Obama’s, as if they share the same politically correct speechwriter: “I’m not in favor of legalization, but if the people want it, so be it.” If passed, the initiative would essentially make the golden state the first to legalize cannabis.

The state might have to erect a 700-mile fence to keep stoners out.

Other pro-pot Republicans

The “Austrian Oak” won’t be transitioning from LA to DC. But other opportunistic Republican hopefuls won’t mind trying on the olive wreath. If you’re into cannabis tourism, Air Force One is a nice perk.

A bold and determined Capitol Hiller or governor, presently off the national radar, could fly into radar range swiftly enough on the wings of cannabis commerce. Kind of like Dumbo.

Former New Mexico (Republican) governor Gary Johnson doesn’t hide his presidential aspirations. He doesn’t filter his pro-pot advocacy either. There’s no slipping into political-speak for the national stage. The San Francisco Chronicle Politics blog reports:

The former Republican Governor of New Mexico stopped through San Francisco yesterday (May 31, 2010) to talk about marijuana. Specifically, former Gov. Gary Johnson was in the state in support of the measure on California’s November ballot to tax and legalize cannabis. You gotta love a governor – who is a former marijuana smoker – who can dish out a punch line like: “You smoked some LSD weed when you should have smoked some beer weed.”

Johnson wants the federal government to tax and regulate the magical herb. Oh, yeah, and he’s putting his toe in the presidential campaign waters. But you didn’t hear that from him. Yes, we’ll repeat that. Republican former governor advocates legalization/taxation of marijuana and wants to run for president. No, we are not indulging in an illegal substance before our Memorial Day barbecue.

And the blog’s first comment from a Bay Area reader:

Gary Johnson is that rare Republican who gets it – in the Ron Paul mold, but much more pragmatic and telegenic. If he does run for president, I’m backing him immediately. – reader “bugmenever.”

Ron Paul, the aforementioned Texas Republican congressman, favors the use of marijuana as a medical option. He was cosponsor of HR 2592, the States’ Rights to Medical Marijuana Act. Note Paul’s otherwise conservative bent – he’s pro-life all the way. Building a 700-mile fence along the Mexican border is his idea of a helpful deterrent against “illegal aliens.”

When disease strikes your loved ones, and THC offers those loved ones greater pain relief than pharmaceutical cocktails, the reaction of the spouses affected crosses party lines.

Connecticut Representative Penny Bacchiochi, who found inspiration for marijuana advocacy after losing a husband to cancer, and former Maryland representative Don Murphy, are both members of Republicans for Compassionate Access, a patients’ rights advocacy group. Both have introduced medical marijuana bills in their respective states.

According to The Marijuana Policy Project:

“In an impassioned plea to his 21 colleagues, Murphy said:”

There are 21 different reasons to vote against the bill, but there are five million good reasons to vote for it,” referring to the approximately five million people who live in Maryland. He argued that Maryland is a high-risk state for cancer, and that any one of them who gets cancer might need to use marijuana as a medicine.

When the measure was defeated, Murphy didn’t give up.

As far as I’m concerned, the medical marijuana bill will be House Bill One next year.

Representative Bacchiochi, a card-carrying NRA (National Rifle Association) member, introduced Connecticut HB 6156, for medical marijuana, in 2009. Once again, conservative in mindset, but outfront about marijuana reform.

No longer mutually exclusive

Evidence abounds the Republican state of mind is a political choice, not a lifestyle choice. Previously, people naturally assumed that conservatives, who could care less about slaughtering spotted owls or prairie dogs in the name of progress, held similar disdain for the fate of medical marijuana patients. Not so. In 2010, such beliefs are no longer mutually exclusive. Consider the following:

  • Even if they don’t go all-in on total legalization, it’s no longer a given that politicians or voters with conservative beliefs are automatically opposed to medical marijuana.
  • The fact someone’s all for drilling for oil in pristine wildlife habitats doesn’t mean they’re unsympathetic to cancer patients managing their suffering with THC.
  • It’s not a given that if you believe less government is more government, you believe marijuana is “a gateway drug.”
  • It’s not a given that if someone is politically conservative, that conservatism extends into every area of their life. Take the sex life area, for instance: political conservatives, usually Republicans, have starred in one lurid scandal after another. If they’re not linked with male Senate pages (Florida Representative Mark Foley), they’re busted wearing adult diapers at brothels (Louisiana Senator David Vitter), or they’re discovered flying down to South America for trysts with their mistresses (South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford).
  • Red states that more than pull their weight in the metric tonnage sweepstakes include Texas, West Virginia, Kentucky, Kansas, Alaska and Hawaii. And the US government marijuana plantation is in Oxford, Mississippi. That suggests many growers are “good ‘ole boys” . . . that is, “good ‘ole boys” with a proclivity for cultivating clandestine pot plots.
  • People who buy into the Republican ethos aren’t necessarily opposed to revenue generation through marijuana profiteering.

The point is, unlike the partisan politics toxic to seismic issues like health care reform, there is no guarantee partisan politics will come into play over marijuana reform. Cooperation could actually rule the day.

One issue alone – a page from the Republican playbook

Every fifty years or so, even a proven performer like the GOP can use an injection of fresh thinking. How about utilizing a strategy which borrows a page from their own playbook?

For Republican political aspirants, the “one issue alone” play works like this: I’ve already got a powerful force in my pocket – all the pro-life (anti-abortion) voters, often poor folks, whose needs aren’t really served by our agenda, but who’ll vote for me anyway because their belief in this one issue alone is so strong.

What if I could add to this advantage the following voting bloc: all the pot-loving liberals, whose needs aren’t really served by the rest of our agenda, but who may vote Republican anyway, if I come out strongly pro-pot, because of this one issue alone?

Is the object of the “one-issue alone” play effecting a mass defection of liberal, pot-smoking Democrats, who traditionally abhor anything red? Hardly. Plenty of elections end up 51% to 49% or 53% to 47%. In what seemed like a landslide victory, Obama won only 52.9% of the popular vote in 2008.  So what percentage of liberal, pro-pot Democrats must be converted to turn defeat into victory? Less than 3%! That requires converting less than one person in thirty. I would be sorely tempted. How about you?

Let’s go one step further. Imagine you have leukemia. The only way you can make it through the day is with access to your “meds.” The Democratic candidate for your district’s congressional seat is lukewarm on patients’ rights.

Surprisingly, a Republican candidate, some guy you never heard of, who seems progressive and pragmatic, unequivocally states that “anyone with a chronic illness should never have to worry about access to meds again.”

Would you choose against saving your own life?

And what if that same dynamic candidate went further, going beyond expressing a personal favoritism, beyond okaying medical marijuana, actually pledging to initiate legislation for total legalization? He or she could wind up with way more than one out of thirty converts.

“Just say no” – fading away?

Despite all this evidence, you may still think no self-respecting Republican would ever come out pro-pot; the lingering imagery from Nancy Reagan’s infamous “Just Say No” campaign remains just too vivid.

OK . . . If you voted for the Reagans, and if you remember the former first lady’s notorious contributions to marijuana lore, you’re over fifty. Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980. To be old enough to vote, you had to have been born in 1959, making you 51 today.

“I’ve always wanted to fly on one of the planes that sprays Agent Orange all over Colombia! Boy, this is great!”

Well, not every Republican is over fifty. To younger Republicans, Reagan-era values belong to the haze of history. For them, voting Republican has everything to do with voting for less government interference in their business — and nothing whatsoever to do with just saying no.

Even if you are a Republican over the age of fifty, you might still love the idea of transacting at a local dispensary.

Statistics – Republicans increasingly favor legalization

Let’s move from sentiments to statistics. We’ve talked about Republican politicians. What about Republican voters?

Medical marijuana’s support among voters in New York State is so solid that even a substantial majority of Republicans favor its legalization, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday. The poll found that 71 percent of voters supported medical marijuana, including 55 percent of registered Republicans. –Andy Newman, The New York Times, “Republicans Favor Medical Marijuana, Poll Shows,” February 4, 2010.

About six-in-ten (61%) Republicans favor permitting medical marijuana in their state compared with 76% of independents and 80% of Democrats. Conservative Republicans are the least likely to support legalization of medical marijuana; still, 54% favor this while 44% are opposed. At least three-fourths in all other partisan and ideological groups favor this. –The Pew Research Center, April 2010.

You get the idea. There are plenty of similar results in other polls. Basically, most Americans know it’s silly that they can glug “the devil’s brew” and smoke two packs of cigarettes a day – while citizens with the same right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, are prohibited from their chosen pleasure. And they’re not necessarily morally opposed to correcting the inequity.

Legalization – in sync with Republican ideals

If Conservatives are for less government intervention and individual responsibility, would it not make sense for them to be the loudest proponents of marijuana legalization? –David Carlson, Unitedliberty.org

 

Poteconomics is in alignment with the basic Republican tenet that no government equals good government, because it creates economic opportunities for people naturally, without government having to lift a finger.

Marijuana activist Jon Gettman agrees:

“I think in many respects marijuana legalization is more in sync with conservative political ideology than liberal ideology.” Cause conservatives are much more free-market oriented than liberals are. Conservatives tend to reject the “nanny state,” the idea that government should decide what’s best for us, and make decisions for us, because we’re not capable of making those decisions for ourselves. That’s a pretty standard conservative statement of their values.

But when it comes to the ideology and the economic impact of this, it’s very consistent with conservative policies and many of the policies of the Republican Party.

Prohibition in some respects is a progressive policy. It came out of the progressive era of the 20s and 30s. It was based on the premise that marijuana is bad for people so we shouldn’t be allowed to use it or sell it. We call it prohibition for a reason. It followed alcohol prohibition. Alcohol prohibition was put into effect during the presidency of Woodrow Wilson, at the high water mark of the progressive politics in the early part of the 20th century. It is a “nanny state” policy.

It would strain credulity to state a pro-pot movement is spreading like wildfire throughout the GOP. However, what we’ve seen so far indicates certain progressive Republicans are already seizing the higher ground.

It wouldn’t surprise me at all if an assortment of fresh Republican hopefuls come out pro-legalization. Stranger things have happened on cannabis planet.

Breaking News

A few months ago, researching pro-pot Republicans was a daunting porposition. Now the stories are coming out of the woodwork. Take “Medical Marijuana Good for Colorado Springs? Yes, Says Mayor,” from Denver’s Westword:

Lionel Rivera, the Republican mayor of Colorado Springs, says his city has a chance to resurrect itself from pummeling budget cuts brought on by the recession and the state’s tax law that limits the city’s ability to fund its coffers. “You just have to make a case,” Rivera says. “I think people in this community, if you make a case, and you believe it will help, they’ll vote for it (legalization).”

Colorado Springs is home to more fundamentalist ministries than any city in the American West!

Conclusion

President Obama can overcome a rocky start and go down in history as a man of the people, the chief executive who worked as tirelessly for marijuana rights as LBJ worked for civil rights. It should be noted that before he took office, LBJ demonstrated zero sympathy for civil rights.

That said, by concentrating on everything but marijuana reform during the first 18 months of his term, President Obama has left himself and his party vulnerable on several fronts:

  • He’s inviting a march on Washington.
  • Republican hopefuls seizing the “higher ground” could derail Democratic incumbents.
  • He’s “just saying no” to $75 billion a year.

Next section preview

Will Cannabis Commerce in the USA close with a Hollywood ending? Is everybody going to be happy? Will legalization bring about heaven on earth? Will we all be leaping for joy on Legalization Day.  .  . which then becomes a national holiday . . . the day a nation bonds with its vaporizers, watching Cannabis Planet TV on 85” LED screens?

Find out as Cannabis Commerce in the USA heads for home, with final thoughts about the implications of medical marijuana . . .

MPP Director Mike Meno comments:

Spelling out the “A” in LegAlize.

Lory,

I have to commend you for this thorough summary of the situation, though I have to admit I have a slightly more optimistic take on the current political climate. In recent months we’ve seen a surge in political support for marijuana policy reform on both the left and right — and hopefully it will continue to expand. In the last few weeks alone, Democratic congress members have openly pledgedtheir support for Proposition 19 in California, the Washington State Democratic Party endorsed a state legalization initiative, and mainstream pundits are reporting that some Democratic consultants see marijuana ballot initiatives as the key to future electoral victories.

Hopefully this groundswell of Democratic support will continue to build and encourage higher profile Dems to back reform.

Coupled with the already-in-motion push from the libertarian right for the Republican Party to wise up on marijuana (which you excellently documented), you might say we’re approaching a “perfect storm” in which marijuana could be the major hot-button issue in the next few election cycles. Even Sarah Palin seems open to reforming marijuana laws!

But while I am increasingly optimistic about the future, I think we need to acknowledge the possibility of an (albeit small) anti-marijuana backlash. (People thought legalization was just around the corner in the ’70s as well.) In California, for instance, Republican Steve Cooley has been running a campaign for attorney general based largely on his opposition to medical marijuana.

Hopefully he’s part of a dying breed of politicians, but only the future can tell. One thing’s for sure, with marijuana initiatives on the ballot in California and other states this year, voters will have a great opportunity to send a clear and strong message of nationwide support for marijuana policy reform — one that can weigh heavily on the presidential debates in 2012 and all other pertinent elections to come.

Sincerely,

Mike Meno
Director of Communications
Marijuana Policy Project