Thursday, May 03, 2018

Can Marijuana Legalization Help Put Kevin de León And Beto O'Rourke Into The Senate?


Beto O'Rourke and Kevin de Leon

Years after California voters legalized marijuana, the state's very senior senator, Diane Feinstein, is celebrating her decision to join the parade and drop her consistently opposition. Anyone think it's conveniently about her desperate bid for reelection? And state Senate president Kevin de León's championing of legalization? A week before DiFi , "a longtime opponent of legalizing recreational marijuana," finally came around to reality, de León had announced that when he's in the Senate he'll "join Senator Sanders in signing on to Senator Cory Booker’s legislation immediately after my swearing in. Continuing a fruitless war on drugs like cannabis is a threat to our public safety, hurts thriving businesses, and fans the flames of racial disparity in our criminal justice system. When it comes to marijuana in America, it’s time for the federal government to get out of the way. The voters of California have spoken, and they overwhelmingly support legalization. It is good to see Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer recognize the destructive nature of the status quo, but it’s time for California’s senior Senator to get on board, too."

And she finally has.
In comments to McClatchy Tuesday-- in the middle of a 2018 campaign for her seat in a state that has settled into the legal pot market-- the California Democrat said she was open to considering federal protection for state-legalized marijuana.

...Legalization advocates have accused her of spreading "'reefer madness’-style disinformation campaigns" about California's 2016 ballot effort to legalize adult use of marijuana, called Proposition 64. Feinstein remained vocally opposed to Prop 64. She gave qualified support for medical marijuana use at the time, but not for recreational use.

In Congress, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) has been drafting a bill with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) that would leave the choice of legalizing marijuana officially up to the states. Its passage would be significant even in states such as California that have already legalized pot, easing the banking issues plaguing the industry and generally providing more stability.

Those running marijuana dispensaries typically have to deal largely in cash, and cannot use most banking services. Banks fear federal penalties if they work with an illegal industry. That leaves dispensaries highly vulnerable to theft and attracts criminal elements.

Gardner has said President Donald Trump told him he would sign such a bill, and Gardner's priority has been drafting one with a high chance of support from members of both parties.

Feinstein said she would need to review Gardner's bill "to determine whether it’s the best path forward," before commenting on it, but she indicated she could be supportive of his vision.

Since the bill would almost certainly need to go through the Senate Judiciary Committee, Feinstein would be an important ally. Though limited in her abilities as the top Democrat on the committee rather than the chair, Feinstein and Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, have been in near-lockstep on the issue in the past.

...In 2015 Feinstein was the sole Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee to vote against preventing federal funds from being used to target state-legalized medical marijuana dispensaries. Several Republicans supported the amendment.

Championing legal marijuana could also be more advantageous this cycle, as a new California law goes into effect to automatically pre-register teens to vote when they apply for a driver's license or state ID card. State officials estimate it will add hundreds of thousands of new registered voters every year.

Among those voters, marijuana legalization is hugely important, according to Will Rodriguez-Kennedy, president of the California Young Democrats, which has 135 chapters throughout the state and more than 10,000 members. While marijuana is already legal in the state, Rodriguez-Kennedy said it also has wide-ranging present and historical effects on other issues important to young people, such as mass incarceration, health care and racial biases.

"It's easy to look at this one issue and see it as sort of silly, but it broadly touches on all these intersectional issues," Rodriguez-Kennedy said. "So I can say with confidence that this matters greatly to young Democrats."

Support for marijuana legalization among millennials is at 70 percent, according to the Pew poll, while 35 percent of Feinstein's generation, the silent generation, supports legalization. But even among that group, support has slowly climbed in recent years.

California Young Democrats have endorsed de Leon in the Senate race, and Rodriguez-Kennedy said this issue played into their view of de Leon as a more progressive candidate better suited to represent them.

De León told us that "Growing up in Logan Heights, I watched the impacts of the United States’ failed War on Drugs unfold before my eyes. Families torn apart and promising futures cut short as law enforcement disproportionately arrested poor people-- my neighbors, my friends. Our nation’s Kafka-esque federal laws against cannabis were the beginning of an extremely toxic relationship between communities like mine, and law enforcement... Right now federal law puts cannabis on the list of narcotics right next to heroin and cocaine, which to me is ridiculous, considering how many states have legalized it for either medical or recreational purposes. Continuing a fruitless war on drugs like cannabis is a threat to our public safety, hurts thriving businesses, and fans the flames of racial disparity in our criminal justice system... And by the way-- tax revenues from the sale of cannabis should be re-invested in the communities hit hardest by this failed war."

Jonathan Underland, De León's communications director quipped that "This isn’t the first time Sen. Feinstein has changed her position on a critical issue for Californians. Next, she’ll be saying she supports Medicare-for-All and was raised by a single immigrant mother in Logan Heights. It’s good to see California’s senior Senator finally catching up to what voters knew 22 years ago-- but at the end of the day, values should transcend political quests to hold on to power."

Goal ThermometerBlue America has only endorsed 7 candidates for the U.S. Senate this cycle. One is Kevin de León, of course. Another is our old friend, El Paso Congressman Beto O'Rourke. You can see the whole list-- and if you want, contribute to their campaigns-- by clicking on the ActBlue 2018 Senate thermometer on the right. I bring this up because yesterday NORML -- the The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws-- announced it had endorsed Beto O'Rourke in campaign to win the Texas Senate seat currently held by arch-reactionary Ted Cruz. "O’Rourke," they wrote in their press release, "would be a true champion for ending federal marijuana prohibition."
“Beto has been a true champion for abolishing our disastrous prohibition on marijuana since the very beginning of his political career as a city council member in El Paso. We were pleased to support him in his previous campaign for the House of Representatives and excited to endorse him again in his race for the US Senate,” said NORML PAC Executive Director Erik Altieri, “As Senator, O’Rourke will be an outspoken and indispensable ally in reforming our federal laws relating to marijuana and fight to finally end our failed prohibitionist policies that are currently tearing apart families, oppressing communities of color, squandering countless tax dollars, and filling the coffers of criminal cartels. The time has come for our nation to move towards the sensible policy of regulation and legalization, sending Beto to the Senate would bring us yet another step closer to that goal.”

"We must end the federal prohibition on marijuana in this country," said O'Rourke. "Texas should be leading the way by encouraging comprehensive reforms in drug control policies that have had a devastating effect on communities of color."

Recent polling on the Texas Senate race showed O’Rourke running neck and neck with Ted Cruz with Cruz claiming the support of 47% of state voters and 44% supporting O’Rourke.

According to a 2017 poll by the University of Texas, 83 percent of Texans support legalizing marijuana for some use and 53 percent would go beyond legal medical marijuana to allow possession for any use.

According to an April 2018 poll from Quinnipiac University, 63% of all Americans support the legalization of marijuana nationwide.

“Texas ranks as one of the states with the highest arrests rates for simple possession of marijuana, at an estimated cost of 1.5 billion in taxpayer money annually,” said Jax Finkel, Executive Director of Texas NORML. “Beto O’Rourke understands that our federal prohibition is a failed policy and it is past time for Congress to end it and allow states like Texas the freedom to pursue new, sensible alternatives.”

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At 3:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who says we in CA even want DINO DiFi to run again? I won't give her my vote no matter what she says - unless it's to tell her to retire.

At 5:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please stop using the word marijuana. It is a racist term made up in the 1920s when the original war on drugs began. The correct word is cannabis. Notice that Kevin De Leon uses the term cannabis not marijuana.


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