Wednesday, April 20, 2016

4-20... Will California Finally Just Legalize Marijuana? Ted Lieu Thinks So


Californians voted-- 5,382,915 (55.6%) to 4,301,960 (44.4%)-- to legalize medical marijuana in a 1996 proposition written by an old friend and coworker of mine, Dennis Peron. Our state was the first to do so, although half the states in the union have followed suit, blue states like New York and Massachusetts, red states like Alaska and Arizona and purple states like Nevada and New Hampshire. A coalition of interest groups in California backing legalization of marijuana completely-- from the California Medical Association and the state NAACP to NORML and the California Cannabis Industry Association-- is close to having enough signatures to guarantee a vote in November. The state's biggest political opportunist, Gavin Newsom, who's running for governor, has jumped on the bandwagon and is struggling to make it look like he's leading it.

On the other hand, California's most progressive Member of Congress, Ted Lieu, officially backed the efforts last week, which was something anyone who has watched his public record would have been expecting. This is what he told the media upon signing on:
"I’ve reviewed the Adult Use of Marijuana Act and believe it creates a legal, responsible and regulated framework for adult use of marijuana that is fiscally responsible, smartly builds on what California has already done with medical marijuana and provides necessary protections for children, workers, local governments, law enforcement agencies and the environment.

"As a policy, marijuana prohibition has wasted taxpayer resources while failing to protect our communities. The Adult Use of Marijuana Act represents a vastly superior and long overdue new approach."

Ted's backing puts him at odds with powerful reactionary forces within his own party. Right-wing Blue Dogs like Henry Cuellar (TX) and Dan Lipinski (IL) have led the charge to find Democrats to vote with the GOP against legalization efforts. DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a well-paid puppet of both the private prison industry-- which worries it will go out of business without the War on Drugs-- and of the alcohol industry, is violently opposed to even medical marijuana legalization. The booze industry has funneled $242,018 into Wasserman Schultz's political career. The private prison industry-- primarily Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and The GEO Group-- have lavished her with tens of thousands more dollars, usually through some of Washington's shadiest and most sleazy lobbyists.

In 2014, Blue America endorsed and supported Ted Lieu for Congress, primarily because of his unique record of genuine accomplishment in the state legislature-- on climate change, on LGBT equality, on predatory mortgage fraud by banksters, on NSA domestic spying... Now that he's a Member of Congress and of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Lieu is one of the most steadfast voices for working families and for the issues his constituents elected him to work on.

Last year, the House accepted his amendment to cut federal marijuana eradication programs by 50% and agreed to redirect the savings to programs that help child abuse victims and domestic violence victims. The federal government’s Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program is funded out of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)’s Salaries and Expenses Account. Last year, $18 million was used for marijuana eradication/suppression. Lieu’s amendment cuts $9 million from the account and uses the savings to increase the VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) Youth-Oriented Program by $4 million and Victims of Child Abuse program by $3 million. The additional $2 million is sent to the Spending Reduction Account.

"Next year," vowed Lieu, "I will bring another amendment to eliminate the program completely. There is a growing, bipartisan consensus across the country that our marijuana policies must change. Despite the overwhelming support from scientists, doctors, and people across the nation for lessening restrictions on marijuana, the DEA still spends millions of dollars each year on domestic cannabis eradication. In 2014 alone, the DEA arrested 6,310 people under its cannabis eradication program for growing marijuana plants. This is a ridiculous waste of precious federal resources, especially when multiple states and jurisdictions have already legalized marijuana. It is time for the federal government to stop making marijuana use or possession a federal crime. My amendment redirects funding from the DEA’s Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program and funds programs to help child victims of domestic abuse, child abuse and sexual assault. We need to focus our resources where they are actually needed: standing up for children who have been victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault, not spending taxpayer dollars on going after people who grow marijuana plants."

Ted is up for reelection again in November and the Republicans have fielded another one of their crackpot candidates against him, xenophobic bigot Kenneth Wright. You can support Ted Lieu at Blue America's "best incumbents" page, which you can find by tapping the thermometer below:
Goal Thermometer
And virtually all of Blue America's congressional challengers this year have taken strong stands against the War on Drugs and for marijuana reform and legalization. This morning New Jersey progressive Alex Law told his supporters that although "most politicians don't want to comment on 4120 because they think it's juvenile," to him "what's really juvenile is the horrific War on Drugs that the United States has waged against our own people (primarily minorities). I think 420 is a reminder that millions of young people have their lives ruined because they are thrown in jail for nonviolent crimes while corporations profit as giant for-profit prisons grow all across the country. Empirically, it has been emphatically proven that treatment for drug problems works dramatically better than punishment. We must end the War on Drugs as soon as possible and move towards funding treatment for folks that are struggling."

Alex promises to introduce the Marijuana Reparations Act of 2017 if he's elected. "Legalizing marijuana produces a number of downstream benefits. Policing and Criminal Justice would immediately become more efficient. In Philadelphia, for example, with marijuana decriminalized, 2,000 fewer cases end up on the desk of prosecutors, freeing up massive amounts of time to be spent on real crime. Nationwide, police make over 750,000 marijuana-related arrests per year, which contributed to 35 percent of murders and 40 percent of rapes going unsolved due to lack of time and resources. Through legalizing marijuana, we can make law enforcement more efficient, generate tax revenue for schools, substantially reduce overcrowding in our prisons, and eliminate the need for private prisons. Moreover, by removing its Schedule 1 status, it will open up marijuana for the tens of thousands of Americans that would benefit from its medicinal properties."

Alex Law and the other progressive challengers who insist the country take new approach to marijuana can be found by tapping this thermometer, which doesn't include any incumbents:
Goal Thermometer

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