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  • by NORML October 9, 2014

    betomemeNORML PAC is endorsing Representative Beto O’Rourke (TX-16) for re-election the the US House of Representatives.

    “Rep. O’Rourke is an ardent supporter of reforming our nation’s marijuana policies,” stated NORML PAC Manager Erik Altieri, “In just his first term, he has proven to be an intelligent and pragmatic politician with a long future in front of him. We strongly encourage voters to support his re-election campaign to keep a true reform champion in Congress.”

    Representative O’Rourke issued the following statement to supporters and voters on the topic:

    “Those of us who live in this region, in El Paso and Juarez, have a unique perspective on the war on drugs. We know that billions of dollars in cash, drugs, guns and arms are transited through this community. We know that billions of dollars in federal resources from the United States and Mexico are spent on law enforcement to try and stop that illicit drug trade. And we also know, all too well, the suffering that accompanies that black market trade in illegal drugs. It is because of that experience and looking back over the 40-year, failed war on drugs that I’ve come to the conclusion that at least when it comes to a drug like marijuana, we owe ourselves, and especially our kids, a much better policy.

    As a rational and humane country, we can decide, as we did with alcohol that the harms in the prohibition of marijuana far outweigh any gains in security and in our efforts to keep these drugs away from our fellow citizens.

    If you support my work and advocacy on this issue, I hope I can count on your help.”

    For the next 24 hours, Rep. O’Rourke will be running a “Powered by People” campaign with the goal of raising $123,200 in amounts less than $200 to illustrate that everyday citizens can compete with special interests in politics and issues such as marijuana law reform drive voter engagement. If you are interested in donating to this campaign you can do so by clicking here (donations are tracked so donations made through this link will show as support for his marijuana reform stance).

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director January 31, 2014

    Screen Shot 2014-01-31 at 10.33.03 AMToday, NORML PAC has announced its endorsement of Delegate Heather Mizeur and her running mate Delman Coates for Governor and Lt. Governor of Maryland.

    Delegate Mizeur has made marijuana legalization a central plank in her campaign platform. Under her proposed plan, the state would generate $158 million for early-childhood education, enough to cover 23,600 children annually from revenue produced from regulated marijuana sales.

    This reform is desperately needed in Maryland. According to a 2013 ACLU report, Maryland possesses one of the highest rates of marijuana possession arrests of any state in the country. Maryland arrests over 23,000 individuals for simple marijuana possession every year, at the cost over of 100 million dollars. Despite only constituting 30% of the state’s population and having similar use rates to their white counterparts, African Americans account for 58% of the state’s marijuana possession arrests.

    “Maryland’s marijuana laws have ruined lives, been enforced with racial bias, and keep law enforcement from focusing their time and resources on more violent crime,” Mizeur stated, “We’re proud to have NORML PAC’s support in the effort to make Maryland the next state to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana.”

    Heather is currently the only Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Maryland to support marijuana legalization.

    “NORML PAC is pleased to endorse Delegate Heather Mizeur in her campaign to become the next governor of Maryland,” said Erik Altieri, NORML PAC Manager. “We believe Del. Mizeur and her running mate Delman Coates will provide the leadership required to help Maryland move towards a new, smarter approach to marijuana.”

    You can learn more about Mizeur’s campaign here.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director September 6, 2013

    One of, if not the, highest profile election this year is the Virginia gubernatorial race. Things are beginning to heat up as we enter the final two month stretch before the election on November 5th and NORML thought it was worth looking at how the issue of marijuana law reform has come into play.

    There are three candidates on the ballot vying for the position: Terry McAuliffe (Democrat), Ken Cuccinelli (Republican), and Robert Sarvis (Libertarian).

     

    [caption id="attachment_12129" align="alignright" width="200"]Robert Sarvis (Libertarian Candidate) Robert Sarvis (Libertarian Candidate)[/caption]Libertarian nominee Robert Sarvis is campaigning with marijuana law reform as a central plank in his platform. In response to a NORML candidate survey, Sarvis stated: “I support the full legalization of marijuana. If that is politically unfeasible in Virginia, I would support an intermediate step like decriminalization of possession and allowing medical marijuana.”

    In an interview with a local FOX affiliate, Sarvis elaborated on his position, stating “I think these [marijuana] laws … are very expensive to enforce. They do a lot of damage to families and communities. They lead to high incarceration rates and unemployment rates when people can’t get jobs.”

    You can read his drug policy platform here.

    [caption id="attachment_12127" align="alignleft" width="194"]Ken Cuccinelli (Republican Candidate) Ken Cuccinelli (Republican Candidate)[/caption]Republican Ken Cuccinelli made some statements about marijuana policy early in the campaign, but has largely remained silent since the beginning of this year and has not answered specifics such as which measures, if any, he would support and sign into law.

    Responding to a student question while speaking to a class at the University of Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli said he was “evolving” on the marijuana issue.

    “I don’t have a problem with states experimenting with this sort of thing I think that’s the role of states,” Cuccinelli stated, “I’m not sure about Virginia’s future [re: marijuana legalization], but I and a lot of people are watching Colorado and Washington to see how it plays out.”

    “What I expressed to [the students] was an openness to observe how things work there, both in terms of the drug side and the economics. One issue that is often discussed is how the war on drugs itself has played out. Have we done this the right way? It’s been phenomenally expensive.”

    Discussing the issue at a later event, Cuccinelli said that, “[If we are] going to put people in jail and spend $25,000 [to] $30,000 a year for a prison bed, do we want it to be for someone who’s pushing marijuana or pushing meth? I’ll tell you what, that $30,000 for the meth pusher is well worth the deal.”

    He stated that “I’m ready to watch and learn. I’m not ready to do it [legalize marijuana] but I don’t want to just never ever say never to the possibility in the future.”

    He clarified this isn’t an issue he expects to take up if he wins the election. “I don’t want you to think that I’m going to land in the governor’s office and sign a legalization bill. I don’t think you have to worry about it getting to the governor’s desk but it’s worth knowing what your candidate’s saying.”

    [caption id="attachment_12128" align="alignright" width="150"]Terry McAuliffe (Democratic Candidate) - Photo Credit: David Shankbone Terry McAuliffe (Democratic Candidate) – Photo Credit: David Shankbone[/caption]The Democratic candidate, Terry McAuliffe, has not issued any statements or formalized positions on marijuana law reform.

    Join NORML in asking the candidates to clarify their positions when it comes to marijuana!

    Click here to contact the McAuliffe campaign and here to contact the Cuccinelli campaign.

    Below is a template letter you can send or personalize as you see fit:

    “As a Virginia voter, I believe one of the most important issues facing our state is its failed war against marijuana. Before I decide which candidate to support this November, I’d like you to clarify your position on marijuana law reform.

    Would you support legislation to allow for the medical use of cannabis and provide Virginia’s seriously ill patients with safe access to a medicine with fewer side effects and no risk of fatal overdose compared with conventional narcotic medications?

    Would you support decriminalizing the possession of marijuana and halting the arrests of over 18,000 Virginians annually at the cost of 67 million dollars per year?

    Would you consider supporting a regulated system for the adult use of marijuana, taking the profits away from criminal cartels, putting control in the hands of regulated businesses, and implementing age restrictions and regulations to decrease youth access?

    This is an issue that is inversely impacting countless thousands of Virginians. It erodes our civil liberties and wastes over 67 million dollars a year to arrest non-violent cannabis consumers. I’d appreciate hearing your position on this important matter.”

    You can also tweet at the candidates @TerryMcAuliffe and @KenCuccinelli and ask them to take a position:

    Note: We are not including Libertarian Robert Sarvis as a target for these messages, as he already has formalized and publicized his marijuana policy position. If you wish to contact that campaign you can view his website here and Twitter page here.

    You can get involved with marijuana law reform in the Commonwealth by following Virginia NORML here.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director June 18, 2013

    [caption id="attachment_12000" align="alignright" width="300"]Senator Leach Talks Marijuana Policy with National NORML Comm. Director Erik Altieri and PhillyNORML Comm. Director Joe Forte - Photo: Ellie Paisley Senator Leach talks marijuana policy with National NORML Comm. Director Erik Altieri and PhillyNORML Comm. Director Joe Forte[/caption]Pennsylvania State Senator Daylin Leach has been an outspoken advocate on the issue of marijuana law reform during his tenure in Harrisburg. Senator Leach made a splash legislatively this year when he introduced Senate Bill 528, which would legalize and regulate the adult use of marijuana in Pennsylvania, the first time such a bill was introduced in the state.

    Senator Leach was also featured as the keynote speaker at the first ever NORML Mid-Atlantic Conference which was held this March in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. You can view video of his remarks here.

    State Senator Leach is now looking to take his advocacy to Capitol Hill. He is running for an open seat representing Pennsylvania’s 13th Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives that will be vacated by Congresswoman Alison Schwartz, who is stepping down from her post to pursue the governorship in 2014. While the Democratic Primary for this position won’t be held until May of next year, Senator Leach’s campaign is already kicking into full gear and he is emerging as an early favorite in the race. In a statement released to NORML, Senator Leach has made clear that he intends to continue his fight for marijuana legalization while serving at the federal level:

    “We have spent billions of dollars nationally investigating, prosecuting, incarcerating, and monitoring millions of our fellow citizens who have hurt no one, damaged no property, breached no peace. In 15 years marijuana prohibition will be some quaint thing of the past that will be the subject of exhibitions at the Constitution Center. People will think it’s crazy that it was ever illegal. As State Senator in Pennsylvania I introduced legislation to end this costly, failed policy of marijuana prohibition and replace it with a system of legalization and regulation. If elected to the United States House of Representatives I will continue to fight for rational marijuana policies at the national level and work to bring an end to this discriminatory, ineffective prohibition.” – Pennsylvania State Senator and NORML PAC Supported US House Candidate, Daylin Leach

    We need more passionate supporters like Senator Leach in Washington, DC. As public opinion swings further in the direction of full legalization everyday, we can only hope Senator Leach’s candidacy, and his potential future terms in the House of Representatives, inspires more of his colleagues to join him in the fight for reforming our country’s marijuana laws. With more federal elected officials who can speak as articulately about the problems of our failed prohibition and the benefits of moving to a legalized, regulated system as Senator Leach, we will see reforms occur at the federal level sooner rather than later.

    To learn more about Daylin Leach’s campaign, you can visit www.votedaylin.com or his Facebook here.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director May 30, 2012

    In early May, Ellen Rosenblum rode to a landslide victory in the Oregon Democratic Attorney General Primary with marijuana law reform being a central plank in her platform. It looks like it has happened again, this time in the Lone Star state.

    In the Democratic primary for the House seat representing El Paso, eight-term incumbent Silvestre Reyes faced an unexpected challenger in Beto O’Rourke, who formerly served on the El Paso city council. The race garnered media attention, largely focusing on O’Rourke’s support for marijuana legalization.

    O’Rourke had been vocal in his critique of the drug war, telling the Huffington Post in April that, “you have 10,000 people killed in the most brutal fashion in Ciudad Juarez in the last 10 years, without a single word from the congressman about what we can do to change the dynamic and stop the bloodshed.” He also stated that, “it is clear to me that what we’re doing is a failure.”

    During his second term on the city council, O’Rourke championed a resolution that urged the re-examination of the drug war and went on to author a book on the subject.

    Beto’s support of marijuana law reform became the focus of attacks from his opponent, Reyes, in the final days of the campaign. Reyes lambasted O’Rourke’s position as soft on crime stating that “my opponent seems to think that recreational use of marijuana is okay with him, and that’s the group he hangs around with — but it’s not for me, it’s not for my grandkids.”

    Reyes feared ending prohibition would lead to widespread use around schools and children. “I don’t want to live in a community where people think that it’s okay to light up a joint and parade around elementary schools and junior highs,” he said.

    Despite these attempts to turn O’Rourke’s rational support for the reform of marijuana policy into a political liability, the voters decided otherwise. Last night, O’Rourke claimed victory, with 50.4% of the vote. Silvestre Reyes, despite the advantage of holding the office for eight terms, only received 44.4%.

    Let’s hope this is just another in an ongoing wave of pro-reform candidates being elected into office, replacing those who employ tired drug war rhetoric to continue the costly failure that is cannabis prohibition. The people want it. If the politicians aren’t willing to take a stand and change the policy, it is time we start changing the politicians.