John Hanger is currently pursuing the Democratic nomination in the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race and has made marijuana law reform a central plank in his platform. He has released a three step plan for marijuana law reform that advocates for medical marijuana and decriminalization immediately upon taking office in 2015 and to move to full legalization by 2017.
At the press conference, NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri stated, “Hanger is the only candidate who isn’t afraid to openly discuss and campaign on a platform that calls for widespread reform of Pennsylvania’s marijuana laws. Since the start of his campaign, John Hanger has been a passionate and outspoken advocate of ending Pennsylvania’s war on marijuana and moving the state towards a smarter approach.”
In an interview with NORML conducted earlier this year, John Hanger stated his belief that marijuana law reformers can elect the next governor. “We can win this issue in May 2014, by my winning that primary,” Hanger said, “It will shock the political establishment and accelerate the changing of the laws by years in Pennsylvania and around the country. I believe Pennsylvania is seen as a bellwether. If marijuana reform can win in Pennsylvania, it can win anywhere.”
VOTER NOTE: Since the Republicans are running current governor Tom Corbett for reelection, there will only be a Democratic primary in this election which will be held in May 2014. To vote in this primary, you must be registered Democrat. You can change your party affiliation, then change it back, at any time by sending in a new voter registration application and marking “Change of Party” where given the option. More information on Pennsylvania voting can be found here.
Gavin Newsom, Lieutenant Governor of California, will chair a blue ribbon committee tasked with studying marijuana legalization in the state. This was announced at a joint press conference held this morning with the ACLU of California.
The panel will “engage in a multi-year research effort to help voters and policy makers as they consider proposals to enact a strict tax and regulation scheme that will enable California to benefit from billions of dollars of potential revenue annually while protecting the health and safety of our children and communities.”
Joining Newsom on the panel will be “leading legal, academic and policy experts from across the state and nation.”
The ACLU also released new polling data which revealed that 65% of Californians support legalizing and regulating marijuana, while only 32% were opposed and 3% undecided. You can view the full poll results here.
“This development is just a further illustration of how the debate over marijuana legalization has moved from the fringe into the mainstream,” stated NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri, “An overwhelming majority of Californians are ready to legalize and regulate marijuana and it is encouraging to see key figures within the state move to address the issue in a forward thinking and serious manner. With a voter initiative likely in 2016, this new survey data also confirms that the people of California are ready to move forward to end their state’s marijuana prohibition, with or without state legislators.”
NORML will keep you updated as this effort moves forward.
They say things are bigger in Texas and, according to new survey data just released by Public Policy Polling, that includes support for marijuana law reform.
PPP’s polling found that 58% of Texans support regulating marijuana like alcohol and only 38% were opposed. This change in policy was supported by 59% of women, 70% of Democrats, 57% of Independents, a majority of all racial demographics, and a majority of all age demographics.
The survey also reported that 58% of Texans supported medical marijuana and 61% supported the decriminalization of possession of an ounce or less.
You can read the full survey here.
With a high profile governor’s race shaping up between Senator Wendy Davis, the only declared
Democrat, and a Republican challenger (Attorney General Abbot seems to be leading in current polls) the time is ripe to make marijuana law reform a major issue in America’s second most populated state.
TEXANS: You can contact the announced candidates for Texas governor by clicking on their links below. Send them a quick message telling them:
“Public Policy Polling found that 58% of Texans support ending our costly war on marijuana and replacing it with a system of regulation similar to how we deal with alcohol. This majority support was spread across all age and ethnic demographics. It is time we consider a new approach to marijuana. As a Texas voter, I am very concerned with your position on the issues of marijuana law reform and would greatly appreciate if you could inform me of your stance on the taxation and regulation of marijuana, as well as allowing for its medical use and decriminalization of personal possession.”
State Senator Wendy Davis
(If you receive a response please forward it to email@example.com)
Miriam Martinez (posted in response to a question on her Facebook page): “I support the medical use of marijuana and decriminalization of personal possession.”
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).
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.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.”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.”
@TerryMcAuliffe Would you support medical marijuana? Decrim? Legalization? You can help end 18k mj arrests per year and save $67mil annually
— NORML (@NORML) September 6, 2013
@KenCuccinelli Would you support medical marijuana? Decrim? Legalization? You can help end 18k mj arrests per year and save $67mil annually
— NORML (@NORML) September 6, 2013
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.
With a crowded field, and no required run-off election, it is likely the winner of the primary will be decided by several thousand Pennsylvania voters. John Hanger sees this unique situation as not only a boon for his campaign, but for the marijuana law reform issue. “Marijuana law reform has power to elect next governor,” John Hanger stated, “If just 1 out of 3 monthly marijuana users vote, we will win.”
John Hanger discussed his plans for marijuana law reform in a telephone interview with NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri. The transcript of that conversation is below:
What was the impetus for taking up the issue of marijuana law reform?
John Hanger: The tipping point for me was just running for governor and realizing that I’ll be in charge of implementing laws, that in the case of marijuana, are unjust. I don’t want to be in the position of enforcing unjust laws. I take doing the right thing seriously. I don’t want to deny cannabis to a sick child because our laws require me to do that as governor. I want to campaign to change unjust laws so I don’t have to administer unjust laws.
I’ve been coming to terms with the seriousness of running for governor and being governor. The marijuana laws in Pennsylvania are unjust. It goes beyond medical marijuana, the criminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana is unjust, it is destroying people’s lives. It is branding them as drug criminals for the rest of their lives. It’s hurting them in a way that three presidents of the United States have not been hurt for their behavior. It is beyond hypocritical.
I’m also very focused on making sure the Pennsylvania budget is invested in the real needs of our state. There is never enough money for all the things that need to happen. There are very important services that are underfunded, but we are spending 350 million dollars enforcing these unjust laws. It means less money for schools, less money for health, less money for roads and bridges. It is destructive to other vital needs in Pennsylvania.
When you look at whats right and come to the conclusion these laws must be reformed, the public is with us on medical marijuana and decriminalization…the public is ahead of the politicians on the first two steps and I’m leading on the third step. I’m working to champion and build to the third step, legalization, because it is the right thing to do. I crafted this three step reform plan because this will allow PA’s to have confidence in moving through each step.
What has the reception to your marijuana reform platform been like?
JH: In terms of the overall reaction it has been positive. The public is well ahead of the politicians when it comes to medical marijuana and decriminalization. So this is an issue that the public opinion is forming and building, and building towards the right result.
Around 60% of Democrats support legalization nationwide, about 70% of the highly coveted independent demographic support it, why do you think, by and large, other Democrats and politicians have been hesitant to take up the issue?
JH: I think it is a mixture of not wanting to lead, not wanting to stick one’s neck out. The old saying in politics is that politicians wait for a parade to form and then run to the front to lead it. Most politicians are risk averse. Many politicians, I think, put their finger up in the air and wait to see which way is the wind is blowing and only when the wind is blowing strongly they move. That’s the normal political animal reaction to issues.
Quite frankly, I’m not a politician. I ran two state agencies…I got into public policy and public life to make changes and help people’s real lives. I haven’t spent my career climbing up a political ladder, thats not my motivation. My motivation is to address real problems in people’s lives and make people’s lives better. For me, this issue is about doing the right thing. I’m going to do the right thing and I think that it is also going to be smart thing politically.
Why do you think, so far, Pennsylvania has failed to move forward a medical or decriminalization bill? What will it take for that to happen?
JH: I think we haven’t had leadership in the governor’s office. The governor has the biggest office, the bully pulpit. It effects how people think about issues, has tremendous influence on legislators. I do know how to get things done in Pennsylvania, we never had a governor to get this done in Pennsylvania. When a governor like me is leading the charge it goes to the top of the priority list. I know how to build public support to get major things done. I built my work in state government going back to Casey admin. I’ve been working on policy getting things done in and out of state government for 29 years.
Quite frankly Governor Corbett, regardless of his politics, is not competent at the nuts and bolts of governing and has been hostile to marijuana reform. Beating him will send a huge message around the country, winning the primary sends a huge message to Democrats that they need to move [on marijuana reform]. When I win the primary, they are going to understand a major reason for my victory will be marijuana reform.
What can Pennsylvanians do to help advance marijuana law reform?
JH: The single best way is to make sure I win the Democratic primary. My candidacy is the equivalent of a marijuana referenda on the ballot. By voting for me you are voting for marijuana reform. Politicians will no longer be able to be on the wrong side of this issue.
Thats what happens, we can win this issue in May 2014, by my winning that primary. It will shock the political establishment and accelerate the changing of the laws by years in Pennsylvania and around the country. I believe Pennsylvania is seen as a bellwether. If marijuana reform can win in Pennsylvania, it can win anywhere.
NORML’s constituency group is a great group of people who are fighting for justice and fighting injustice. The great news is that we can win this battle in PA in just 8 months, thats exciting.
(VOTER NOTE: Pennsylvania has closed primaries. If you wish to vote in the Democratic primary in May of 2014, you would have to be registered Democrat before that election. There is no Republican primary this year. The incumbent, Governor Corbett, is running for reelection. Party affiliations can be changed at any time.)