Thursday, July 12, 2018

Marijuana Legalization And the 2018 Elections


The Oklahoma Republican Party knew that putting Question 788 on the general election ballot could be very bad for them. It was expected to turn out an inordinately large number of people who don't usually vote-- and those people would not be conservatives. So they put Question 788 on the primary ballot on June 26. And, sure enough, primary election polling places were swamped with votes, quadruple the number who normally vote, in some cases 10 times the number! We're talking about Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative. And it passed-- 507,582 to 385,176. Yeah, one of the reddest states in America... with a PVI of R+20! Trump won every county. More people voted for Question 788 than had voted for Hillary, who only got 420,375 votes (28.9%).

The GOP had opposed Question 788. They were gobsmacked by all that support for it-- not that that's stopping them from screwing around with it behind the scenes now, much the same way the GOP had done in Florida, after their marijuana initiative had passed overwhelmingly. They're doing it through the Board of Health, which was tasked with drawing of implementation guidelines. They're not doing so in good faith.
The board, which oversees the Oklahoma State Department of Health, voted Tuesday morning on 75 pages of rules creating a rough framework for patients, physicians, caretakers and business owners interested in medical marijuana. It also added two new rules that a coalition of health groups had pushed: the ban on smoking products and a requirement that dispensaries hire a pharmacist.

...Julie Ezell, the Health Department’s general counsel, cautioned board members that the two new rules they added to the proposed rules might not be allowed under State Question 788, which legalized medical marijuana. That could invite a court challenge, she said.

Dr. Jean Hausheer, president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association [and a deranged right-wing anti-marijuana fanatic], praised the vote.

“We are pleased with the rules adopted today by the Oklahoma State Department of Health and look forward to working with them to promote public health throughout the state,” she said in a news release.

Few others said they were pleased.
Hausheer wants to severely restrict the number a dispensaries and claims Oklahoma voters "didn't understand" Question 788 when they voted for it. How Republican is that? And Oklahoma isn't the only state where right-winger officials are trying to fight a losing battle with their own citizens against marijuana legalization. Half a dozen states have ballot initiatives coming up in November, initiatives that are going to hurt Republicans.
Two measures are already scheduled to appear on November ballots: Michigan voters will decide whether to become the ninth state to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes, while the electorate in Utah will choose whether to join 22 other states by legalizing pot for medical use.

In Missouri, as many as three separate measures could make the ballot. Supporters have submitted signatures for both medical and recreational regimes that will now be inspected by the secretary of state’s office.

Oklahoma, which voted last month to legalize medical marijuana, could see a ballot measure to approve a recreational scheme as well. Legalization measures are also circulating in Arizona, Nebraska and North Dakota. Supporters in Ohio are trying for a second time to qualify for the ballot, in 2019.

Supporters say they will focus on the benefits of creating a regulatory and taxation system for a market that would otherwise be controlled by cartels and street dealers.

“We’re careful to talk about it as creating a regulatory framework,” said Martin Hamburger, a Democratic strategist who has crafted campaign advertisements for previous marijuana measures and who will work this year on the efforts in Michigan and Missouri. “Regulate it and tax it. And that frame of creating regulation so it can be used responsibly by adults 21 and over is pretty important.”

Hamburger said legalization campaigns have also made inroads among minority communities by talking about decriminalizing marijuana sales, something that resonates in areas where authorities prosecute people on minor possession charges.

“We often find that there’s sort of a social justice message there,” Hamburger said. “One arrest for marijuana can ruin your life and give you a felony, and it’s on your mark forever. A stupid mistake as a 19-year-old shouldn’t mess up your life.”

Marijuana legalization has also meant a business boom for companies that are able to enter the market soon after regulatory schemes are enacted. Opponents of legalization have cast those businesses as Big Marijuana-- a boogeyman as threatening to public health, especially children’s health, as Big Tobacco in earlier times.

Increasing access to marijuana products, especially edibles like candies and chocolates, that might tempt children is something that can move voters away from legalization, said Kevin Sabet, who runs Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a group that opposes legalization.

“Most voters don’t understand that legalization actually means commercializing edibles, pot candies, pot concentrates that are 99 percent THC,” Sabet said, referring to the main psychoactive component of marijuana. “What voters think it’s about, and what the pro-legalization side has been good about framing, is going to jail for a joint.”

Casting marijuana as a get-rich-quick business for Wall Street hedge funds helped the legalization opponents notch their most notable win at the ballot box: Voters in Ohio three years ago resoundingly rejected a legalization measure, by an almost 2-to-1 margin. Even proponents of legalization grimaced at that campaign, where backers rolled out an ill-advised mascot named Buddie to greet voters.

“We won in Ohio by a 2-to-1 margin because the singular message was about the marijuana monopoly, not whether marijuana is bad or good,” Sabet said.

As campaigns for and against marijuana legalization have become more sophisticated, costs have risen, too. Supporters have outspent opponents; in California, $25 million poured into the campaign in favor of legalization, while opponents spent $2 million. In Massachusetts, supporters outspent opponents by a margin of $6.8 million to $3 million. And in Maine, where a legalization initiative passed by 4,000 votes, backers outspent opponents more than 10-to-1.

This year, supporters in Michigan had raised $1.6 million to back their measure, through last week. Opponents had pulled in $280,000, though Sabet said he expected the opposition campaign to have a seven-figure budget.

The shifting battlefield, away from liberal coastal states and into more traditionally swing and red states like Michigan, Ohio and Oklahoma, illustrates the unusual coalitions of support on which each side relies. Far from the traditional conservative-liberal split that divides modern politics, older men and younger progressives tend to favor legalization, while women with children-- typically guaranteed Democratic voters-- tend to harbor doubts.

“Democrats and progressive women with children are our swings,” Hamburger said. “They’re the ones we can lose. So a lot of our messaging are about regulations, how to prevent kids from getting it.”

“The swing voters are basically 35- to 55-year-old women,” Sabet said. “That is going to be key for us. We know that we’re not going to get a majority of 18- to 34-year-olds.”

“It’s really going to be those moms” who decide whether legalization passes or fails, he added.

Both sides are already exploring another new way to appeal to that swing demographic: the opioid crisis. Supporters hope to convince voters in states hit hard by opioids, including heroin and fentanyl, that marijuana can act as a substitute, something to ease pain that might otherwise only be stopped by a powerful pill. Opponents say marijuana is a gateway drug that can lead to more serious addictions.

Conservative politicians have a knee jerk anti-marijuana posture. That's opened the door of younger and more progressive politicians to use marijuana decriminalization and legalization as part of their platforms. That's working out badly for the GOP. West Virginia progressive, Kendra Fershee released that above video and this morning she told me that "The GOP is also fighting legalization at the federal level, which is making it hard for states to implement (even weak) cannabis laws. Banking is difficult, federal enforcement looms, and anti-cannabis state legislators can point to the federal laws as an excuse to fight cannabis legalization. It's time to elect pro-cannabis candidates to Congress to get the fed out of the way."

Goal ThermometerSimilarly, Alan Grayson, the Orlando Democrat trying to win his seat back from conservative backbencher Darren Soto, told us that "This represents a new coalition in American politics: Democrats allied with the 'let’s mind our own business'/libertarian vote.  We’ve seen something similar on marriage equality, and I think that we will on abortion."

As so many people do, when talking about medical marijuana, Dayna Steele, who is running for a congressional seat east of Houston, spoke about it from a personal perspective. "My sweet, wonderful mother," she told us, "became so depressed and violent in her last year of Alzheimer's. I often wished marijuana was legal in Texas while she was going through this. I sincerely thought at the time it would make a huge difference for her. And us. Now, recent studies show marijuana could be instrumental in helping those diagnosed with Alzheimer's. It is also helping veterans with PTSD, children with epilepsy, and so much more. It is time to legalize marijuana and bring this industry AND relief to Texas."

Tom Guild is a longtime local activist in Oklahoma City running for Congress-- and in a tough Democratic Party primary runnoff. But he took the time just now to explain how he sees. the marijuama situation in his state:
The actions of elitist politicians and the unelected governing board of the Oklahoma State Department of Health are hijacking the medical marijuana initiative that passed overwhelmingly in the June 26 Oklahoma primary. The board was warned by its in-house counsel that the actions of the health department will likely lead to litigation. As George Harrison sang in the "Sue Me Sue You Blues"-- you get your lawyer and I’ll get mine. We’ll get together and have a bad time. The political ruling class isn’t too concerned about litigation because the money to defend their actions in court will come from taxpayer funds. They have weighted the state tax system to burden working people, the middle class, and the working poor, so that’s who will pay for litigation induced by the health department’s miscalculations. When citizens were circulating a petition to raise the minimum wage in Oklahoma City, the political class rushed through a new law making it illegal for cities to raise the wage. When Stillwater was taking action to regulate fracking in its city limits, the state legislature made that illegal, too. What happened to that old Republican favorite-- local control? Now it’s implementation of medical marijuana in Oklahoma that the ruling class is working overtime to thwart, overriding the overwhelming will of the people of Oklahoma. You get your lawyer and I’ll get mine. We’ll get together and have a bad time. Hopefully this time the good guys and democracy will prevail over Oklahoma’s elitists-those with God’s unlisted phone number. What has the political ruling class been smoking, anyway?

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At 3:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


You may have given the democraps their ACA for '18 and '20.

Pot would be nice to have, but it's not among the NOT-survivable AFU issues facing us/US. But you might just impress just enough independents and coax out just enough dormants to get your democrap majority and maybe prez.

But if that's all they do in '21, then '22 will be another bloodbath, only worse, than 2010 was.

Each cycle, the list of stuff that's totally AFU grows. Each time the 'craps get their shot, they ratfuck the list and make a few corporations richer instead. Then they lose power until some next unfathomably evil motherfucker (cheney/bush, then trump) gets elected BECAUSE THE 'CRAPS WON'T EVER DO WHAT THEY'RE ELECTED TO DO!!!

Quit hallucinating what they COULD do to keep a majority through a midterm. They, as currently constituted, cannot and will not and won't even try to.

How about imagining some way that the majority who WANTS the AFU to be NFU any more could ACTUALLY go about doing THAT. The democrap party is never going to be a part of any of that.


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