It’s almost time for the midterm elections and the nation’s oldest marijuana reform organization is pressing lawmakers to take a stand on cannabis.
With election season starting to bubble in the pot, NORML released its 2018 Candidate Pack that lawmakers can use to craft their pro-pot stances and talking points. The packet includes information such as the latest polling data, strategies on how to dispel the common propaganda their opponents may use against them and how to articulate the way marijuana can be used in combating the opioid crisis.
“Marijuana legalization is going to be a lead issue in the 2018 elections,” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri told Cannabis Now. “Advocating for an end to our decades-long, failed prohibition is not only good policy, but good politics.”
Altieri pointed to the fact that regulating the adult use of marijuana is currently supported by a majority of Americans from all political persuasions, and any candidate for local, state or federal office would be wise to advocate for the will of the people and make ending prohibition a core plank in their election platform.
“Supporting sensible reform to our nation’s marijuana laws is not just overwhelmingly popular, it is the economic, scientific, and moral thing to do,” Altieri said.
With the wave of progress and consensus of the public at his back, Altieri believes the next step is to start replacing the lawmakers that aren’t getting on board with reform.
“If you look back at just the past year, it is clear that if we want the implementation of marijuana reform laws to succeed, we need to begin voting out officials who are permanently afflicted with Reefer Madness and replace them with forward-thinking individuals who will fight for rational marijuana policies at all levels of government,” said Altieri.
With most states now in direct opposition to federal marijuana law in some way, Altieri is quick to name the current roadblocks to progress.
“With a majority of states now engaging in activities that are in conflict with federal prohibition, it is absurd that House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), House Rules Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX), and Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA) refuse to even hold a hearing on this issue,” said Altieri.
It’s not just Congress that deserves attention on the issue, according to Altieri, but also the numerous state capitals creating hurdles to the effective implementation of marijuana laws already voted on by citizens.
“With ongoing efforts to delay the rollout of legalization and regulation of marijuana in Maine and Massachusetts, mostly at the behest of their governors, we need to push 2018 gubernatorial candidates to take a proactive and positive stance on marijuana policy,” Altieri added. “If you look to New Jersey as an example, the exit of anti-drug zealot Chris Christie and the election of pro-legalization Phil Murphy, you can see the positive impact having a reform friendly governor has on the tenor of the debate. Already, the state is moving to expand and reinforce their long-suffering medical marijuana program and his very election catapulted the topic of full legalization to the top of this year’s legislative priorities list.”
Following the announcement of the candidate pack being disseminated publically, Altieri broke down the big races that NORML is keeping an eye on for November. He said that “from a marijuana reformer’s perspective,” the senate races in Texas and California will be crucial in terms of the opportunity to replace anti-marijuana senators Ted Cruz and Dianne Feinstein.
Altieri went on to cite the many gubernatorial races that could also have a big impact on laws changing, but he focused on Maine.
“In Maine, current governor and ardent prohibitionist Paul LePage will be term-limited out of office,” he said. “Governor LePage has spent every day since the 2016 election working to slow down or outright prevent the implementation of his state’s marijuana legalization initiative. We need to ensure whoever takes the position after him is progressive and aggressive on implementing legalization.”
According to Altieri, many members of the House of Representatives who have delayed progress at the federal level are either retiring, including Representative Goodlatte — who has long refused to give marijuana bills even a single hearing — or will be facing serious challenges, such as Rep. Andy Harris from Maryland who worked to obstruct Washington, D.C. from regulating the sale of marijuana despite it being legal to possess.
Despite all the grandeur of state houses and Capitol Hill, local elections will also have an important effect on cannabis legalization. For example, Altieri noted how a decriminalization effort in Easton, Pennsylvania failed in the past month because of just one vote.
TELL US, do you know your representatives’ policy beliefs about cannabis?