During an interview with HuffPo Live yesterday, Newark Mayor and potential gubernatorial candidate Cory Booker made some very strong statements in favor of drug law reform. When asked about medical marijuana, a program that was approved in his state, but has been slow in implementation, Mayor Booker spoke strongly in favor of allowing patients access to cannabis, but thought we could do even more:
Medical marijuana, heck yes. I do not understand that there are drugs that are more toxic, more dangerous and more challenging, in drugs stores around my state, yet we single out this one drug and we say you can’t even have it in a medical fashion, at a time when I see prescription drugs from Adderall to you name it being used widely across our nation…
The reason I said I want to go beyond that…is because of the drug war.
We have seen so much of our national treasure being spent in the national drug war and in my opinion have turned human life into incarceration, trapping into poverty…
What I’ve seen in Newark is a massive trap in this drug war, and its not just a trap for the individuals being arrested, it’s a trap for taxpayers, communities and towns. We’re not making our nation safer with this assault on this drug war, we are not making our state less addicted to substances. We need to change, radically change, the conversation and begin to talk about drugs, especially drugs like pot, in a different way.
This is a conversation that no matter what I do, Mayor, Governor, Senator, I want to be one of the people, hopefully, trying to lead the national conversation away from this insanity that we have now.
View the full interview here.
Mayor Booker isn’t the only prominent Democrat with higher political aspirations embracing the idea of marijuana law reform. This year, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo came out strongly in favor of fully decriminalizing marijuana possession in his state and Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin voiced his desire to be a national leader pushing to change our country’s draconic marijuana policies. Even former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton have recently criticized the War on Drugs as a failed effort, with President Carter going as far as endorsing full legalization.
So, President Obama, do you want to be on the right or wrong side of history? Your party, and the nation, are moving towards regulated marijuana whether you aid in its implementation or not. It is becoming more and more obvious that the Democratic presidential candidate in 2016, and possibly even the Republican, will not only be critical of the war on drugs, but will likely support progressive reforms such as decriminalization or legalization. There are still four years left in your second term, Mr. President, don’t let them pass you by and have to look back and think what you could’ve done.
Earlier this year, the Colorado Democrats announced their support for marijuana legalization in their 2012 party platform. On June 9th, the Texas Democrats endorsed marijuana decriminalization. Last weekend, the North Carolina Democratic Party added resolutions supporting medical cannabis and industrial hemp. Now, the Iowa Democratic party is the latest one lining up to support sensible marijuana laws.
At their state convention on June 16th, the Iowa Democrats adopted their 2012 platform. Two of the policies endorsed within were medical cannabis use and the industrial cultivation of hemp. You can view the full 2012 Iowa Democratic Party platform here.
Also worth noting, on June 2nd, the Washington State Democratic Party built upon their earlier endorsement of their state’s legalization initiative, I-502, by adding support for full marijuana legalization and medical cannabis as planks in their party platform. You can view the 2012 Washington State Democratic Party Platform here. Recent data from Public Policy Polling has shown the majority Washington State voters support I-502.
North Carolina Democratic Party Passes Resolutions in Support of Medical Marijuana and Industrial HempJune 19, 2012
Hot on the heels of the Texas Democratic Party’s endorsement of marijuana decriminalization, the North Carolina Democratic Party endorsed two resolutions in support of marijuana law reform of their own. On Saturday, June 16th, the party held their state convention in Raleigh, NC. During this meeting they passed two reform minded resolutions, one calling for the legalization of medical marijuana and one for the industrial cultivation of hemp. The official text of the resolutions are as follows:
51. IN SUPPORT OF LEGALIZING MEDICAL MARIJUANA IN NORTH CAROLINA (11TH CD)
WHEREAS, “Medical Marijuana” has been demonstrated to be an effective drug for treatment of certain human ailments; and
WHEREAS, Current North Carolina law denies doctors the right to treat patients by prescribing
Medical Marijuana; and
WHEREAS, Many states currently allow doctors to prescribe Medical Marijuana, a policy resulting in relief from pain and suffering for their patients; and
WHEREAS, Many other treatments legally prescribed by doctors are known to be extremely dangerous when misused.
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, That the State of North Carolina grant doctors the right to prescribe Medical Marijuana in the same way they prescribe other drugs; and
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, That the State of North Carolina legalize the use of Medical Marijuana.
52. IN SUPPORT OF THE RENEWAL OF INDUSTRIAL HEMP AS AN AGRICULTURAL CROP IN NORTH CAROLINA (11TH CD)
WHEREAS, in 2006, the N.C. State Legislature passed a Bill (House 1723/Senate 1572) to create an independent commission to study the beneficial uses of industrial hemp, among other studies, but there has never been any report or follow through to the study, and
WHEREAS, American companies are forced to import millions of dollar’s worth of hemp seed and fiber products annually from Canada, Europe, and China, thereby effectively denying American farmers an opportunity to compete and share in the profits; and
WHEREAS, nutritious hemp foods can be found in grocery stores nationwide and strong durable hemp fibers can be found in the interior parts of millions of American cars; and
WHEREAS, buildings are being constructed using hemp and lime mixture, thereby sequestering carbon; and
WHEREAS, retail sales of hemp products in this country are estimated to be over $400 million annually; and
WHEREAS, industrial hemp is a high-value low input crop that is not genetically modified, requires little or no pesticides, can be dry land farmed, and uses less fertilizer than wheat and corn; and
WHEREAS, the reluctance of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration to permit industrial hemp farming is denying agricultural producers in this country the ability to benefit from a high value, low-input crop, which can provide significant economic benefits to producers and manufacturers; and
WHEREAS, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration has the authority under the Controlled Substances Act to allow this state to regulate industrial hemp farming under existing laws and without requiring individual federal applications and licenses.
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, That N.C. Democratic Party urge legislators to recognize industrial hemp as a valuable agricultural commodity; to define industrial hemp in Federal law as non-psychoactive and genetically identifiable species of the genus Cannabis; to acknowledge that allowing and encouraging farmers to produce industrial hemp will improve the balance of trade by promoting domestic sources of industrial hemp; and to assist United States producers by removing barriers to State regulation of the commercial production of industrial hemp; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That we urge the United States Drug Enforcement Administration to allow the State to regulate industrial hemp farming under existing state laws and regulations, or those to be passed, without requiring federal applications, licenses, or fees; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Secretary of State shall forward copies of this resolution to the President of the United States, the Attorney General of the United States, the Administrator of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the United States Secretary of Agriculture, and to each member of the state’s Congressional Delegation.
When politicians long considered opposed to marijuana law reform, such as those in Texas and North Carolina, openly endorse rational marijuana policy measures, you have to ask yourself: Just how many more dominos need to fall before our federal politicians finally wake up and end our country’s war on cannabis consumers? At lest one thing is certain, however, and that is all the momentum is behind reform and these recent victories for sensible marijuana laws are only just the beginning.
From Thursday, June 7th through Saturday, June 9th, the Texas Democratic Party held their state convention in Houston, Texas. Along side other election related business such as selecting delegates, they also voted on their party platform for 2012. One of the issues added this year was support for marijuana decriminalization. Below you can read the official language:
Decriminalization of Marijuana
This decriminalization of marijuana does not mean we endorse the use of marijuana but it is only a call to wiser use of law enforcement and public health policy. Prohibition of marijuana abdicates the control of marijuana production and distribution to drug cartels and street gangs. Such prohibition promotes disrespect for the law and reinforces ethnic and generational divides between the public and law enforcement.
Every year, hundreds and thousands of Americans are arrested for marijuana possession violations- far more than all those arrested for violent crimes in America. Societal costs dealing with the war on drugs concerning marijuana exceeds 12 billion dollars annually. Since the war on drugs began, 85% of the arrests for marijuana have been for possession only.
Marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol or tobacco. Recent polls show over 50% of Americans believe marijuana should be decriminalized. While arrests for marijuana since 1965 have been over 20 million citizens, marijuana is more prevalent than ever before.
There is no evidence that marijuana is a “gateway” drug leading to the use of more lethal drugs. 75% of citizens arrested for marijuana are under 30. Minorities account for a majority of those arrested for marijuana. Criminal conviction permanently scars a young citizen for life.
Texas Democrats urge the President, the Attorney General and the Congress to support the passage of legislation to decriminalize the possession of marijuana and regulate its use, production and sale as is done with tobacco and alcohol.
We further urge the immediate decriminalization of the possession and use of medical marijuana.
The Texas Democrats now join the growing list of state political parties throwing their support behind marijuana law reform. Earlier this year, the Colorado Democratic Party added marijuana legalization as a plank to their party’s platform and announced support for their state’s legalization ballot initiative, Amendment 64. 56% of Denver Country Republican Assembly also voted in favor of supporting this initiative. The state democratic party in Washington endorsed their legalization initiative, I-502, in late 2011.
While the federal government may continue to ignore the will of the people on the marijuana issue, it is comforting to see state level politicians supporting the interests and desires of their constituencies. Considering that pro-reform candidates are winning elections in multiple states, respected party members such as Governor Cuomo (D-NY) and Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D-Chicago) are endorsing decriminalization, and the continuous flow of marijuana law reform being approved at the state level, one has to wonder just how much longer the federal government and current presidential contenders can ignore the giant green elephant in the room.
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.