Today is National Voter Registration Day and we are pleased to present this valuable voter education tool to the marijuana movement: NORML’s updated and revised 2016 Congressional Scorecard. The Scorecard is an all-encompassing database that assigns a letter grade of ‘A’ (the highest grade possible) to ‘F’ (the lowest grade possible) to members of Congress based on their comments and voting records on matters specific to marijuana policy.
Of the 535 members of the 114th Congress:
- 330 members (62%) received a passing grade of ‘C’ or higher (270 Representatives and 60 Senators)
- Of these, 22 members (4%) received a grade of ‘A’ (20 Representatives and 2 Senators)
- 254 members (47%) received a ‘B’ grade (218 Representatives and 36 Senators)
- 54 members (10%) received a ‘C’ grade (32 Representatives and 22 Senators)
- 172 members (32%) received a ‘D’ grade (149 Representatives and 23 Senators)
- 32 members (6%) received a failing grade (16 Representatives and 16 Senators)
- 60 Senators (60%) received a passing grade of a C or higher (Two A’s, 36 B’s, and 22 C’s)
- 270 Representatives (62%) received a passing grade of a C or higher (20 A’s, 218 B’s, and 32 C’s)
- Of the 233 Democrats in Congress, 215 (92%) received a passing grade of a ‘C’ or higher
- Of the 302 Republicans in Congress, 113 members (37%) received a passing grade of ‘C’ or higher
This analysis affirms that voters’ views on marijuana policy are well ahead of many of their federally elected officials. While the majority of Americans support legalizing the use and sale of cannabis for adults, only four percent of Congressional members voice support for this position. Approximately half (51%) of federal lawmakers favor liberalizing medical cannabis policies. However, this percentage remains far below the level of support frequently expressed by voters in state and national polls.
Also evident is that Congressional support for marijuana law reform is largely a partisan issue. While more than nine out of ten Democrats express support for some level of reform, just over one-third of Republicans hold similar positions. This partisanship lies in contrast to voters’ sentiments, which tend to view the subject as a non-partisan issue. For example, recent polls from swing states show that super-majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents endorse medical marijuana legalization. Further, most Republican voters embrace principles of federalism with regard to cannabis policy. Nonetheless, Republican support for this position remains marginal among members of Congress.
HOW NORML’S CONGRESSIONAL SCORECARD IS CALCULATED
- An ‘A’ letter grade indicates that this member has publicly declared his/her support for the legalization and regulation of marijuana for adults.
- A ‘B’ letter grade indicates that this member supports policies specific to the legalization of medical cannabis and/or the decriminalization of cannabis.
- A ‘C’ letter grade indicates that this member has publicly declared his/her support for the ability of a state to move forward with cannabis law reform policies free from federal interference.
- A ‘D’ letter grade indicates that this member has expressed no support for any significant marijuana law reform
- An ‘F’ letter grade indicates that this member expresses significant and vocal opposition to marijuana law reform
FOR MORE INFORMATION
To find NORML’s grade for a specific member of Congress, please click here for the Senate scorecard and click here for the House scorecard. NORML’s full 2016 Congressional Scorecard and Executive Summary is available online here.
Over the weekend the Democratic National Committee voted to endorse a “reasoned pathway to future legalization” of marijuana and called on the federal government to downgrade marijuana from it’s current Schedule 1 of the United States Controlled Substances Act.
In an 81-80 vote, the following language was added as part of the Democratic party’s official 2016 platform:
“Because of conflicting laws concerning marijuana, both on the federal and state levels, we encourage the federal government to remove marijuana from its list as a Class 1 Federal Controlled Substance, providing a reasoned pathway for future legalization.”
Previously, a 15-person panel of the Democratic National Committee voted to include the following language which will also be included in the party platform:
“We believe that the states should be laboratories of democracy on the issue of marijuana, and those states that want to decriminalize marijuana should be able to do so. We support policies that will allow more research on marijuana, as well as reforming our laws to allow legal marijuana businesses to exist without uncertainty. And we recognize our current marijuana laws have had an unacceptable disparate impact, with arrest rates for marijuana possession among African Americans far outstripping arrest rates among whites, despite similar usage rates.”
While the language that was originally approved by the panel sufficiently addressed marijuana law reform as a party priority, the additional amendment which nods towards future legalization, bodes well with advocates all around. This is surely a large step in the right direction by one of our country’s main political parties.
As the Democrats worked to finalize what faction of marijuana law reform they would like to endorse, the Republicans had a different debate on the subject.
On Monday, the Republican party voted not to endorse medical marijuana in their 2016 platform. And throughout the debate some of oldest marijuana myths were spouted as fact. Delegates contested that marijuana is linked to mental health issues, that mass murderers are all smoking pot, and that the heroin epidemic is a result of teenagers smoking weed. While there were some pro-medical marijuana delegates present and who attempted to push back at the theories, it was not enough to result in a medical marijuana endorsement by the party.
The Republican party missed their opportunity to endorse any language related to marijuana law reform which could have ranged from medical marijuana to simply endorsing the conservative principle of limited government, allowing states to move forward with their reforms free from federal interference.
It’s a wonder how one political party has come so far in acknowledging scientific fact and public opinion, which puts voter approval for medical marijuana at 78 percent and voter approval for adult marijuana use at 61 percent, while another political party seems so far from that same point.
Representatives within the Democratic National Committee have approved provisions specific to marijuana law reform as part of the party’s 2016 platform.
A 15-person decision-making panel unanimously voted to adopt the following language:
“We believe that the states should be laboratories of democracy on the issue of marijuana, and those states that want to decriminalize marijuana should be able to do so. We support policies that will allow more research to be done on marijuana, as well as reforming our laws to allow legal marijuana businesses to exist without uncertainty. And we recognize our current marijuana laws have had an unacceptable disparate impact, with arrest rates for marijuana possession among African-Americans far outstripping arrest rates among whites despite similar usage rates.”
Though the language falls well short of calling for an end to federal cannabis prohibition, it nonetheless marks a stark contrast between the two major political parties.
Last week, Republican leaders in Congress quashed a number of proposed marijuana law reforms. Specifically, provisions previously voted on by Congress to expand medical cannabis access to eligible military veterans were removed by leadership during the conference committee process and earlier there was a decision to deny members the opportunity to vote on a Democrat-sponsored amendment that sought to permit banks and other financial institutions to engage in relationships with state-compliant marijuana businesses.
With many Congressional Republicans actively discouraging marijuana related reforms at the federal level, it’s motivating to see Democrats pro-actively finding ways to include the need for cannabis policy reform in the party’s national conversation.
NORML members, supporters, and chapter leaders gathered in our nation’s capital this week, for NORML’s 2016 Conference and Lobby Day. The events were filled with education, activism, socializing, and plenty of marijuana smoking. For those who weren’t able to attend, keep reading below to find out what you missed and how you can get involved in next year’s events.
On Monday we held our educational conference at George Washington University’s Elliot School of International Affairs. On the top floor, surrounded with ceiling to floor windows, the meeting room provided attendees a view of some of the district’s most iconic sights while hearing from some of the reform movement’s brightest minds.
Highlights on Day 1 included a presentation by Deputy Director Paul Armentano entitled, “We Don’t Know Enough About Cannabis? Think Again,” where he acknowledged that there are now more scientific studies and papers available specific to cannabis than most other conventional therapeutics.
John Hudak, deputy director of the Center for Effective Public Management at The Brookings Institute discussed the successes we have seen from Colorado and the other pioneering states that have regulated marijuana for adult use.
Attendees also heard from Queens College professor Harry Levine and investigator Loren Siegel, who highlighted the continuing racial disparities in marijuana law enforcement — a disparity that continues to exist even in jurisdictions that have regulated cannabis-related activities. Their presentations were a stark reminder that even as we celebrate or successes, there is still plenty of work left to do.
A summary of many of the day’s presentations is online here.
Finally, in one of the more notable events of the day Eleanora Kennedy and Anna Kennedy Safir awarded longtime NORML Legal Committee member Gerald H. Goldstein with the first annual Michael John Kennedy Social Justice Award.
Events continued Monday night at the historic O St. Mansion where attendees gathered for drinks and hors d’oeuvres. NORML hosted our 2016 award ceremony, highlighting various attendees for their extraordinary activism, and political and cultural leadership in the field of marijuana and marijuana policy reform. Award recipients included:
- Outstanding Chapter Award to Norm Kent on behalf of Florida NORML
- Student Activist Award to Chris Thompson, Purdue NORML
- Lester Grinspoon Award to Harry Levine and Loren Siegel
- Hunter S. Thompson Award to Bruce Barcott, Leafly
- Pauline Sabin Award to Pam Novy, Virginia NORML
- Peter McWilliams Award to Ken Wolski, Coalition for Medical Marijuana – NJ
- Outstanding Cannabist Activist Award to Kevin Oliver, Washington NORML
On Tuesday attendees convened on Capitol Hill for a full day of lobbying. In the morning, attendees heard words of encouragement from five distinguished members of Congress: Reps. Sam Farr, Earl Blumenauer, Jared Polis, Suzan DelBene, and Dana Rohrabacher. Congressman Farr (D-CA), who is the co-sponsor of legislation protecting statewide medical marijuana programs from federal interference, will be retiring this year so it was a privilege for our lobby group to hear from him.
NORML awarded Congressman Blumenauer (D-OR) our 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award for his continued leadership and focus on marijuana law reform throughout his career. Keith Stroup, NORML’s founder and legal counsel, spoke of the Congressman’s first days as a legislator in the Oregon State House of Representatives where he sponsored the state’s 1973 decriminalization law. Ever since then Congressman Blumenauer has continued to support our issue. Just last week, the U.S. House of Representatives approved an amendment sponsored by the Congressman providing V.A. physicians the ability to discuss and recommend medical marijuana to U.S. veterans.
Congressman Polis (D-CO) and Congresswoman DelBene (D-WA) encouraged attendees to continue their advocacy work. Congressman Polis is chief sponsor of the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, legislation to to permit states to establish their own marijuana regulatory policies free from federal interference. Congresswoman DelBene is chief sponsor of the SMART Enforcement Act, legislation to make the US federal Controlled Substances Act inapplicable with respect to states that have legalized and regulated marijuana in a manner that addresses key federal priorities.
Wrapping up the morning reception, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) made news when he acknowledged successfully using a topical marijuana treatment for his shoulder arthritis. His admission marked quite possibly the first time ever a sitting member of Congress has admitted using marijuana while serving in office! Congressman Rohrabacher is one of our most valuable leaders at the federal level and NORML wishes to thank him for not only addressing our group but for sharing with us his candid and personal testimony. You can listen to the archived audio from NORML’s Capitol Hill reception here.
Throughout the three day event, attendees were able to network with fellow activists, learn from leaders in the reform movement, and relax with some of best locally grown marijuana in Washington D.C. NORML would like to thank those of you who attended and contributed to this successful event and we look forward to seeing you all again next year.
We are ten days out from NORML’s 2016 Conference and Congressional Lobby Day and we are excited to share with you the full itinerary! Have you registered to attend? We have some fun events planned and it would be a shame for you to miss out!
Our ‘pre-registration’ social will be held at Eden Lounge the night of Sunday, May 22nd where we will have the place to ourselves for private mingling and relaxing. We’ll be welcoming those of you who are travelling from out of town and getting you checked into the event so you won’t have to worry about a thing on Monday morning. This party is free for those who pre-register for our Conference and Lobby Day but for those who wait till the last minute, you will have to pay a cover charge.
On Tuesday, May 24, during our morning reception on the Hill we have confirmed the participation of three prominent members of Congress: Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) and Congresswoman Suzan Delbene (D-WA). Each of them will take time to address NORML’s attendees. This is a unique chance to meet with and hear directly from some of our nation’s most important marijuana law reformers in an intimate setting. You’ll have the opportunity to ask questions and gain insight into the progress we are making at the federal level. Have you ever had the opportunity to speak directly with a member of Congress? Now is your chance!
We already know you care about marijuana law reform. But now it’s time to take your efforts to the next level! Join us in Washington, DC May 22-24 and tell Congress that it’s time to legalize the responsible adult use of marijuana.
Register now to attend NORML’s 2016 Conference and Congressional Lobby Day!