Thursday, February 08, 2018

Dan Canon, Bernie Sander, Marijuana And You (And Me)


Dan Canon is a brilliant, albeit modest and self-effacing guy. He's one of the very best candidates for Congress I've met in years. And, as you may have read here back in December, he's running on a platform that includes marijuana legalization-- in a district that Trump won 61.1-34.2% (albeit a district where Bernie crush Hillary). Tuesday James Higdon featured Dan in his Politico feature, These Red-State Democrats Think Legal Marijuana Can Help Them Win. The DC Establishment has some fake garden variety Democrat running against Dan in the primary. She's winning inside the Beltway; he's winning in the suburbs south of Indianapolis, the suburbs north of Louisville, in Bloomington, Martinsville, Franklin, Bedford, Salem and Scottsburg (IN-09). "Students," wrote Higdon, "seem drawn to Canon in part because he was one of the plaintiff attorneys in the lawsuit that became Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court case that legalized same-sex marriage. They like his stances on raising the federal minimum wage and providing Medicare for all. But it’s his full-throated support for legalizing medical marijuana at the federal level that has distinguished him in the eyes of many young voters, who consider it a threshold for taking any politician seriously."

Goal ThermometerSo far, there are 15 congressional candidates on the Blue America Green Wave page. If you want to help Dan and the 14 others get elected, consider clicking on the thermometer and contributing what you can.
“I think anytime you have an issue with such a high degree of bipartisan support in 2018, you have to pay attention to it,” Canon told Politico Magazine, regarding marijuana. “And it's appealing because it touches on so many other things: creates a new industry with jobs, good for agriculture, alleviates pressures placed on the criminal justice system, reduces overdose deaths, is a natural pain reliever, can raise massive tax revenue, et cetera.”

Not so long ago-- like maybe last cycle-- a Democratic challenger in a state this conservative wouldn’t have been caught dead making an unqualified endorsement of a drug federal authorities still consider as dangerous as heroin by categorizing it as Schedule 1. But attitudes about marijuana, not to mention state laws, have changed so quickly and so broadly across the country that Democrats even in deeply red states like Indiana not only don’t fear talking about the issue, they think it might be a key in 2018 to toppling Republican incumbents. The numbers, they say, are on their side, not the side of the politicians who either duck the subject or endorse Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ apparent desire to return federal marijuana policy to the “Just Say No” days of the Reagan administration.

In a 2016 poll of Indiana residents, approval for medical marijuana was at 73 percent. In a state struggling, like so many others, with a massive opioid crisis, there’s been no sign that support for legalizing marijuana has waned. A 2012 survey from the Bowen Center of Public Affairs showed that 78 percent of Hoosiers supported taxing marijuana like alcohol and cigarettes, far above the 55 percent who supported then-Governor Mike Pence-- a sign that support for marijuana law reform in Indiana is no statistical blip. In fact, according to Canon, it has only gotten stronger, not just in blue bubbles like Bloomington but in rural and suburban communities, too. That’s why, in December, Canon released a web video ad declaring his stance clearly, “Here’s one simple solution that’s long overdue: We need to legalize medical marijuana nationwide.” He even got some international press out of it.

...Canon, for one, sees a vulnerability in Hollingsworth’s silence. Hollingsworth has made no public statements on marijuana, according to Vote Smart. And thanks to House leadership, Hollingsworth has not been forced to take a vote on marijuana, because the Rules Committee has denied marijuana-related votes since 2016. At the Crazy Horse in Bloomington, with Trump’s State of the Union on mute on the TV behind him, Canon predicted that Hollingsworth would continue to run from the marijuana issue as long as he can.

“They think they can hammer that ‘law and order’ message all day long,” Canon told Politico Magazine, referring to the likes of Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, and the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, who all oppose legalization. “The majority of Republicans running throughout the country are out of touch with the people in their districts [on the marijuana issue].”

...[R]ed-state Democrats have found strong footing on a position to the left of their party’s leadership in Washington, D.C., and it seems to be working for them. None of them seem shaken by Sessions’ recent announcement he would end the Obama administration’s hands-off approach to prosecuting marijuana crimes in states that had legalized it.
Maybe we should add Bernie to that list. He's down with the weed legalization too. "As you know," Bernie wrote to his supporters, "a number of states (including my state of Vermont) have decriminalized or legalized the possession, use and sale of marijuana in recent years. Under the Obama Administration, the Justice Department took no action against these states or the people in those states. However, the Trump Administration has taken a very different stance with Attorney General Jeff Sessions threatening to prosecute. That would be a huge mistake and move us in exactly the wrong direction.

Here's why:
Millions of Americans have had their lives impacted by the federal prohibition on marijuana-- arrests, convictions and even jail time. Even when people don't go to jail, the criminal record they receive makes it harder for them to find a job, get housing or go to college. Is this a widespread problem? It sure is. In 2016 alone, over half a million people were arrested for marijuana possession.

These harmful impacts are felt far more acutely in communities of color and poor communities because enforcement of marijuana laws is much stricter there than in more affluent, white communities. Incredibly, African Americans are four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana even though marijuana usage rates are basically the same across racial lines.

Of course, marijuana prohibition is part of a larger failed war on drugs that has led to the great national crisis of mass incarceration. Some 1.5 million people were arrested for a drug related offense in 2016 - over 80 percent of which were for possession alone. We need to stop criminalizing addiction. We need to stop criminalizing recreational marijuana use.

The criminal justice system is not the answer to drug abuse. Addiction is a health problem and we should start treating it that way. While communities all across the country lack adequate resources for treatment or prevention, we are spending approximately $50 billion a year on the war on drugs. That's absurd. We need to get our priorities right.

This so-called war on drugs has led us to have over 2 million people in prison-- disproportionately poor and from communities of color. Our incarceration rate is the highest in the world-- higher even than authoritarian countries like China, Saudi Arabia, and Russia.

Further, what is not often discussed is how the war on drugs and mass incarceration is impacting the essence of our democracy. People with felony convictions cannot vote in many states. Today, for that reason alone, over 6 million Americans are denied access to the ballot.

Uneven enforcement and the fact that people of color receive longer sentences for the same offenses than white defendants means more felony convictions in those communities. And that means-- surprise, surprise-- fewer voters.

In other words, the war on drugs is robbing those minority and lower income communities of their political power. In Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee over 20 percent of voting age African Americans are disenfranchised because of felony convictions. It's not too hard to figure out what's going on here. The communities most impacted by these policies are systematically stripped of their ability in our democratic system to politically fight back.

Why hasn't something been done to fix this problem? You know the reason. The sad truth is that some politicians benefit from people not being able to vote. All too often these are the same politicians who are trying to disenfranchise voters in other ways, such as restrictive voter ID laws or extreme gerrymandering.

This has got to change.

We need the highest voter turnout in the world, not the highest incarceration rate. We need to provide treatment for people with substance abuse problems, not lock them up.

As a first step, we need to remove marijuana from Category 1 of the federal Controlled Substances Act where it is currently ranked alongside drugs like heroin. In fact, marijuana is classified more harshly than cocaine. That doesn't make any sense.

Let's have states decide the issue of marijuana for themselves like they do with alcohol. More and more states are moving in the direction of decriminalization. Let them make those decisions without federal interference.

Let's invest in the prevention and treatment of substance abuse.

Let's reform our criminal laws and take other steps to dismantle mass incarceration. Among other steps forward we need to ban private prisons and create new federal policing standards.

Let's restore the voting rights of all Americans.

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At 3:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dan's "platform" is irrelevant. It's the party's "platform" (defined as what they'll do and refuse to do; not what they say) stupid. Dan won't be able to do shit that Pelosi/scummer don't want to do (what their donors don't want).

When gauging the quality of a candidate, always remember the PARTY dictates policy. The candidate can only talk.

At 12:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

3:12 speaks truly. This is why we need to abandon the DINO-Whigs and get a new party operational - no matter what the pearl clutchers insist.


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