Saturday, October 21, 2017

It’s been a tumultuous political season, and partisan tensions are only likely to rise as November nears. In the chaos, it can be easy to forget how important this race is for marijuana users and the advocates who support their rights.

It’s an issue those advocates hope won’t get lost in the political fray, and to that end, some of them brought their case to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia – in the form of a smouldering 51-foot joint.

The idea was to march the enormous J four miles between City Hall and the Wells Fargo Center, both in the heart of Philadelphia. The March started around 1 p.m. July 25, the first day of the four-day convention, where Democratic delegates were expected to nominate Hillary Clinton for president.

Marijuana activists outside White House
Demonstrators call for the legalization of marijuana outside of the White House on April 2.

Huge joints are a staple of cannabis conventions and, occasionally, political protests. But they’re surprisingly hard to roll. Chris Goldstein of the Philadelphia branch of NORML said the process is similar to inflating one of the dancing stick figures frequently set outside car dealerships. The difference: Instead of using a fan to inflate the joint vertically, it would be inflated horizontally.

Once the J was lit, the fan blew smoke from the cherry to the roach, where users inhaled it. The folks behind the march have tried this before, with an attempt this spring to light a massive marijuana cigarette across from the White House. It didn’t quite work, but activists were hopeful they had ironed out problems.

Volunteers took turns holding the J aloft as it passed along Broad Street to the site of the convention at the Wells Fargo Center. They returned it along the same route on the last day of the convention.

Democratic Party Donkey

“The marijuana movement has to bring some levity to the tense times we’re living in,” said Nikki Allan Poe, a well-known local activist. “We wanted to do a protest that’s fun. Times are changing. Things are getting different. Marijuana can unite this country. We’re the new America. We want to be heard, with a message of peace, compassion, and care for people. This directly affects our community so we want our piece of the pie, standing up for ourselves. It’s an exciting time to be alive.”

Democrats seeking a ‘path to legalization’

But Goldstein doesn’t consider this a “protest,” exactly. Rather it’s a celebration, reflecting the DNC’s shifting position on marijuana reform. A vote on the Democratic platform in July marked the first time a major American political party has called directly for a “path to legalization.”

Goldstein and his fellow reformers were arrested just three years ago for lighting up during a protest on Independence Mall. Public cannabis consumption is a misdemeanor in Pennsylvania, though the drug is decriminalized in Philadelphia. That means protesters who toke during the march will face small civil fines at most.

“Removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act was, three years ago, a very radical position,” he said. “Now, Bernie Sanders has a bill in the Senate about it, and the party is seriously considering it. We’ve had decriminalization here since then. Are we protesting or are we out there cheering them on?”

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Legal marijuana may reach many parts of the country sooner, thanks to a decision by the Democratic Party to support the idea.

Democratic Party DonkeyThe platform drafting committee of the Democratic National Committee voted in July to add text to the party platform that would call for a rescheduling of cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Downgrading the drug’s listing under that law would open the door to widespread legalization and an end to federal marijuana prohibition.

The decision was a big victory for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and his supporters. Sanders, who lost to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries, pushed during his campaign for a rescheduling that would give states greater freedom to legalize and make the drug more readily available to researchers.

He filed a bill in the Senate that would have accomplished that goal, though it has since stalled there and stands little chance of passing unless Democrats take back Congress in November. After his loss in the primaries became clear, Sanders turned to pressuring the party to adopt his approach.

Cannabis ranked schedule 1 of CSA

The Controlled Substances Act, passed during the Nixon administration, lists controlled substances in several schedules, starting with schedule 1. That category includes the drugs the federal government considers most dangerous, most addictive, and least medically useful. Heroin and LSD are also included on schedule 1.

Moving pot to a lower schedule, such as 2 or 3, would make it easier for scientists to obtain samples of it for studies. The DEA now makes it extremely difficult for researchers to study anything other than the drug’s alleged harms.

Rescheduling also would allow doctors to formally prescribe marijuana, if only for a very limited number of conditions. Because the FDA and DEA control prescribing practices in the United States, physicians must “recommend” cannabis to patients rather than writing an actual prescription.

DEA to decide on rescheduling in coming months

Marijuana LeafIt is also possible marijuana could be removed from the law entirely, which would allow states or even Congress to legalize the drug at their pleasure. The DEA is expected to announce by August whether it will reschedule or deschedule cannabis within the next several months, but the odds of that eventuality aren’t good.

That leaves Congress as the only means of moving pot from schedule 1. The Democratic Party’s official support of that approach makes it more likely lawmakers – if not the DEA – will finally remove marijuana from that restrictive category, especially if Clinton wins the White House and Democrats gain control of both houses of Congress. That’s unlikely but far from impossible.

The DNC platform committee had initially voted to add platform text that merely encouraged freedom for states to make their own cannabis policy. Now, assuming delegates at the Democratic National Convention later in July approve the platform as written, as they are likely to do, the text will push for a “reasoned pathway” to legalization:

“Because of conflicting laws concerning marijuana, both on the federal and state levels, we encourage the federal government to remove marijuana from its list as a Class 1 Federal Controlled Substance, providing a reasoned pathway for future legalization.”

The text didn’t go as far as some committee members wanted, as it called on the government only to move marijuana to a lower schedule, not to remove it from the Controlled Substances Act completely.

Leave a comment: Does it make any difference for stoners that the Democratic Party is finally pushing for legalization of marijuana? Why?

The Democratic Party will formally support marijuana reform in the 2016 election.

The Democratic National Committee voted in June to add cannabis policy reform to the party’s electoral platform. That makes it the only of the two major parties to support anything approaching legalization.

The Democratic plank doesn’t go quite that far, however. Rather than pushing to legalize the drug for recreational use, the plank calls for an end to racial disparities in arrest rates, encourages research, and supports states that choose to legalize for personal or medical use. The party platform reads as follows:

“We believe that the states should be laboratories of democracy on the issue of marijuana, and those states that want to decriminalize marijuana should be able to do so. We support policies that will allow more research to be done on marijuana, as well as reforming our laws to allow legal marijuana businesses to exist without uncertainty. And we recognize our current marijuana laws have had an unacceptable disparate impact, with arrest rates for marijuana possession among African-Americans far outstripping arrest rates among whites despite similar usage rates.”

Appealing to younger voters

It’s not clear how much weight the party will put behind that position, but support for legalization is high nationwide, and a pot-friendly campaign could win over critical young voters. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will need those voters, many of who cast their ballots for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries, to win in November.

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton at the DNC debate in October
Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton at the DNC debate in October

Recent polls show more than half of American voters favor full legalization of marijuana. Four states allow the drug for any adult use, while more than 20 others have legalized medical cannabis. But the drug remains illegal for any use under federal law.

Presidential candidates on cannabis policy reform

Democratic DonkeySanders supported legalizing marijuana during his presidential campaign, which effectively ended after the California primary June 7. He introduced legislation in the Senate to reschedule pot under the Controlled Substances Act and openly supported legalization in California. He offered an alternative reform plank, which the DNC rejected.

“We will refocus our drug policy by removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and allowing states to set their own policies,” Sanders’ proposal read.

Clinton has promised she would push for medical cannabis as president but stopped short of supporting recreational legalization. Her opponent in the general election, Republican Donald Trump, has repeatedly taken contradictory positions on the issue over the past 20 years.

One “mainstream” presidential candidate does support full legalization: Libertarian Gary Johnson, former governor of New Mexico. Johnson currently draws about 10 percent in national polls, making it unlikely he’ll do significantly better than the 1 percent he won on the Libertarian ticket in 2012.

That makes the Democrats the only party with a realistic chance of pushing through serious cannabis policy reform after November. The platform language won’t be official until delegates approve it at the Democratic National Convention in August, but it’s unlikely they’ll do anything else. The party needs pothead voters, too.

Tell us: Who will you vote for? Does marijuana policy have anything to do with your decision. Leave a comment below.

Well, this shouldn’t be much of a surprise to anyone who follows either marijuana news or politics: A new study reports voters are more excited about the prospect of ending cannabis prohibition than they are about any of the major presidential candidates.

Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Donald TrumpThe survey, released by Quinnipiac University in May, also shows legal pot has majority support in three swing states: Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

Full legalization draws support from 56 percent of voters in Florida, 52 percent in Ohio, and 57 percent in Pennsylvania. Medical marijuana is backed by 80 percent in Florida and 90 percent in Ohio; the medicinal cannabis question was not asked in Pennsylvania.

At the same time, the poll found voters give much higher approval ratings to cannabis reform than they do to the three major presidential candidates: Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump.

FLORIDA OHIO PENNSYLVANIA
Legalizing Marijuana 56% 52% 57%
Medical Marijuana 80% 90% not asked
Hillary Clinton 37% 34% 37
Donald Trump 37% 36% 39%
Bernie Sanders 43% 45% 50%

 

Clinton was supported by 37 percent of Florida voters, 34 percent of Ohio voters, and 37 percent of Pennsylvania voters. Sanders has the backing of 43 percent in Florida, 45 percent in Ohio, and 50 percent in Pennsylvania. These figures do not match actual vote totals in these states, where Clinton has won every Democratic primary election.

On the GOP side, meanwhile, Trump has support from 37 percent in Florida, 36 percent in Ohio, and 39 percent in Pennsylvania. He won substantially higher vote totals in all three states.

More Democrats favor legalization

The poll found more Democrats than Republicans favor legalization, by wide margins. In Florida, 63 percent of Democrats want to legalize, compared with 65 percent of independents and just 40 percent of Republicans. In Ohio, the numbers are 67 percent of Democrats, 57 percent of independents, and 30 percent of Republicans. In Pennsylvania, meanwhile, legalization draws 67 percent support from Democratic voters, 61 percent from independents, and 41 percent from Republicans.

FLORIDA OHIO PENNSYLVANIA
Democrats 63% 67% 67%
Independents 65% 57% 61%
Republicans 40% 30% 41%

MMJ expected to reach Ohio and Florida

Quinnipiac University PollThe wide support for medical marijuana reform suggests MMJ is likely to reach Ohio and Florida soon. The Pennsylvania Legislature recently legalized the drug for medicinal use.

Efforts to adopt medical cannabis laws in Ohio failed last year but stand a good chance of succeeding in November. And while a push in Florida fell short in 2014, it gained enough support to warrant a second try this year.

Not only did pot reform fare better than presidential candidates in the Quinnipiac survey, it also topped out the support for current elected officials in all three states, including all six senators and two of the three governors. Ohio Gov. John Kasich was the only official more popular than full legalization, though he didn’t beat medical marijuana.

The possibility of legal cannabis also won more support from voters than Donald Trump’s proposal to build a wall along the the U.S.-Mexican border, an idea that garnered less than 50 percent backing in all three states. And legalization is more popular than both President Obama and his nomination of Merrick Garland to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Each of the three presidential candidates has promised to let states enact their own cannabis laws without interference from the federal government, which currently bans the drug for any use. But only Sanders has gone so far as to support full legalization at the federal level.

Look at the political scene this year and you might come to the quick conclusion that Bernie Sanders has the stoner vote all wrapped up. He’s very pro-marijuana, if not in his own life, then in terms of policy reform.

But that conclusion would be misleading, at least when it comes to some of the biggest pothead names in Hollywood. Surprisingly, many of these folks support Hillary Clinton, not Bernie. But why? Here are a few examples and an explanation of their plans for the November election.

Snoop Dogg

Snoop DoggCalvin Broadus, aka Snoop, is well-known for his near-constant use of weed. He’s also known as a huge supporter of legalizing both medical and recreational marijuana. But other things take precedence in his politics: namely, feminism.

A rapper who supports women’s rights? It’s not as unusual as you may think. As Snoop says, “I would love to see a woman in office because I feel like we’re at that stage in life . . . where we need the perspective of other than a male’s point of view. And just to have a woman speaking from a global perspective as far as representing America, I would love to see that. So I’ll be voting for Ms. Clinton.”

Bryan Cranston

Bryan CranstonBryan, one of the best actors in the world, is better known for cooking meth on TV than for supporting cannabis reform in real life. But in a 2012 interview, he made it clear where he stands.

“Marijuana started out with a bad connotation, as you know,” Bryan said. “But to me, marijuana is no different than wine. It’s a drug of choice. It’s meant to alter your current state, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s ridiculous that marijuana is still illegal. We’re still fighting for it.”

Later, in an article in the Los Angeles Times, he revealed that not only does he support Hillary, but also that he has given lots of money to her campaign.

Morgan Freeman

Morgan FreemanIt’s no secret Morgan uses pot as medication and backs legalization. But despite Bernie’s position on reform, Morgan will vote for Hillary. Despite her (undeserved) reputation as a shifty politician, the famed actor says she’s a good choice for voters concerned about marijuana policy.

Hillary hasn’t come out in strong favor of full legalization, but she openly backs medical marijuana and has said she’ll keep an open mind about further reform. She’s more liberal than most voters realize, and the odds are good that a second President Clinton would go all the way, Morgan says.

Mary Louise-Parker

Mary Louise-ParkerMary doesn’t actually smoke pot, but it shouldn’t be the least bit shocking that she supports legalizing the drug. Indeed, her most famous role, on the Showtime series “Weeds,” is all that’s necessary to make that clear.

“Historically, being caught is not a deterrent,” Mary told WebMD. “If you can control it, maybe marijuana is not as dangerous and not part of another world of harder narcotics. . . . Anything that’s going to lessen crime in any small way is a good idea, and what they’re doing now just doesn’t work.”

That point of view fits well with Hillary, who promises to take a measured approach to drug policy. When your goal is to improve society through legalization, immediate change may not be as appealing as careful action.

Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton talked up medical marijuana during a visit to Jimmy Kimmel Live in March. She didn’t soften on her current opposition to legalizing the drug at the federal level but said she supports significant reform.

Hillary ClintonThe conversation started with Kimmel reading a joking email from Clinton, who described ordering apples, which she swore wasn’t code for pot. Kimmel then moved to her position on legalization under federal law.

Clinton, former first lady, senator, and secretary of state, differs with her opponent in the Democratic primaries, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, on how to approach cannabis reform. Sanders has called for full legalization at the federal level, while Clinton says she wants to give states more time to prove the idea works.

Clinton support state laws and federal rescheduling of marijuana

“I think what the states are doing right now needs to be supported,” Clinton said, emphasizing the federal government should learn more before moving toward legalization. “There are still a lot of questions we have to answer at the federal level. What I’ve said is, let’s take it off what’s called the ‘schedule one,’ and put it on a lower schedule and actually do research about it.”

Schedule one is one of five categories of drugs included in the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Substances in this schedule include heroin, LSD, and peyote – as well as marijuana.

The drug’s inclusion has bothered activists and reformers for decades. Schedule one is limited to the drugs considered most dangerous, most addictive, and least medically useful. But cannabis has many proven medical uses, a fact Clinton acknowledged.

Indisputable evidence of efficacy of medical marijuana

“There is some great evidence about what marijuana can do for people” who suffer from cancer, chronic disease and pain, she said. The drug’s listing on schedule one prevents most research into its efficacy as medication and its safety for general adult use.

Jimmy KimmelClinton, like Sanders, favors removing cannabis to schedule 2 or a lower list. Schedule 2 includes drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine, which are considered dangerous and addictive but medically useful under limited circumstances.

Sanders wants to move marijuana to an even lower schedule, allowing for full legalization, or to remove it from the Controlled Substances Act altogether. Clinton, for her part, has said she’ll keep an open mind about further drug reforms.

Downgrading cannabis is difficult under current law and the politics of the Obama administration. Either Congress or the DEA can reschedule the drug, but lawmakers have balked and President Barack Obama has refused to direct the DEA to act. Without a direct order from the president, the agency almost certainly won’t move to reschedule the drug.

Kimmel closed his marijuana chat with Clinton with another joke – noting that his sidekick Guillermo has been researching the issue all on his own.

Post a comment: Do you think Hillary would accept legalization once if she’s elected president?

Marijuana could go big time in November, bigger than ever before. As many as 18 states could grapple with the question by the end of the year, and even a few wins could upend anti-cannabis laws across the country.

Marijuana VoteOf course, few of those states will actually vote on legalization. Some are deep-red places such as Alabama and Oklahoma, where advocates stand roughly a snowball’s chance in hell of making pot legal for any use.

But at least a few of the states probably will act, both on recreational and medical marijuana. So which are the most important? Which of these places would move the needle furthest? And how much impact could they have?

Here are three of the most critical battlegrounds for reform in 2016.

California

Win California, win everywhere else. That, at least, is the hope. This most populous state in the union is a bastion of marijuana reform and the first to adopt medical cannabis, 20 years ago.

But California is not quite the same as Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, or the District of Columbia – the five places that legalized between 2012 and 2014. Why? One word: polls.

Public support for full legalization has been climbing for many years, and by 2014 it had topped 50 percent. But advocates felt that still wasn’t strong enough. That year, the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform, a national lobbying group made up of the Drug Policy Alliance, the Marijuana Majority, and California NORML, opted to stay out of the fray.

It’s still unclear how right they were. But in any event, efforts at reform failed that election – no doubt in large part because the coalition begged off. That decision alone may have doomed efforts in 2014, though we’ll never know for sure.

But this year is different. Several large statewide groups, including California NORML and the NAACP, are backing legalization in November, as is Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and a growing list of public figures. Odds are believed to be very good.

Ohio

An effort to legalize both medical and recreational marijuana in Ohio went down to humiliating defeat in 2015. Activists behind the push got grabby and tried to use it to create a cultivation monopoly for friendly pot companies. Voters didn’t take the greed well.

marijuana jointThey were so disgusted that even while they rejected legalization, they passed another initiative to ban monopolies statewide. The reform plan backfired, in other words.

But that could change this year. It’s not clear whether advocates will get reform on the ballot in November, but they have narrowed their plan to cover only medicinal cannabis. Recreational weed will have to wait for another day.

This is a smarter approach, at least in this part of the country: No state anywhere has even tried to legalize both MMJ and recreational legalization in the same election. It’s a stretch for any state, but especially a political swing state without the staunch voter support of places like Colorado and Washington.

Even without a vote for full legalization, success in Ohio this year could prove that reform can sell in decidedly purple states. And that could speed up legalization everywhere.

Florida

As in Ohio, the push in Florida is strictly for medical marijuana. But it would still be a major step forward: The state already allows MMJ, but only in highly limited circumstances, and then only if the cannabis doesn’t get patients high.

Florida faced the same question in 2014, and medicinal marijuana won wide support at the polls, 58 percent. But the state requires a 60 percent vote to amend its constitution, and that year voters came up short.

Still, support has only grown since then. It’s not clear when Floridians will come around to approving complete legalization, but with every vote, the odds increase – as they do elsewhere.

Tell us: Which states do you think will legalize marijuana in 2016? Do you live in one of them? Post a comment below.

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Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is rapidly losing his grip on the Democratic presidential nomination, but that hasn’t stopped his fans in the Pacific Northwest from selling marijuana and paraphernalia to raise money for his campaign.

Marijuana Joints and BudThe latest comes out of Portland, where legal cannabis dispensaries are selling joints as part of their “Burn One for Bernie” campaign. Each joint costs $10, and $1 goes to the Sanders campaign.

The name comes from Foster Buds of Portland and its sister shop, Glisan Buds. Like other dispensaries, these stores are pushing for a Sanders victory because of his stance on marijuana reform.

Sanders supports federal legalization

The senator introduced legislation last year that would reschedule the drug under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). That would clear the way for legalization at the federal level – something Sanders has said he supports.

Cannabis is currently legal in four states and the District of Columbia, but it remains illegal under federal law. That is largely because it is listed under schedule 1 of the CSA. That listing, the most restrictive under the law, includes only drugs that are barred for any use, medical or otherwise.

Rescheduling wouldn’t legalize the drug, but it would make it easier to do so, and it would allow doctors to legally prescribe it. No other presidential candidate has gone this far, though former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has offered her support for medicinal marijuana.

Sanders regularly rolls reform issues into his larger message on economic and social inequality. He argues for legalization largely because of the effect anti-cannabis laws have had on the African American community.

Clinton has all but won the nomination

But his chance to enact that marijuana reform is quickly passing. Sanders has won far fewer delegates than Clinton so far and would have to pull off several major upsets in coming weeks to win the nomination. That is unlikely to happen.

Nonetheless, Foster Buds and Glisan Buds are selling the one gram joints, with marijuana provided by the cultivation company Farmer 12. Ten percent of sales are directed to the campaign.

Bernie SandersEach shop hopes to donate up to $2,700, the legal limit for individual political donations. Sales have been brisk, with 100 joints sold in the first 24 hours.

“He wants to keep the medical program alive for the nation,” Foster Buds Manager Ken Martin said of Sanders. “Which is awesome, because without the medical program, we wouldn’t be where we are today and we wouldn’t have found all the cool things that marijuana helps and all the people it helps also.”

Sanders has not given his stamp of approval to the effort, and neither of the pot shops has been in contact with his campaign. It’s unlikely Sanders even knows about the fund-raising drive. His campaign didn’t respond to local reports about “Burn One for Bernie.”

Politics are hard to avoid this year. The November presidential election will likely be a contest between a narcissistic serial racist and a career politician who is trying to win over voters sick of career politicians.

Donald Trump and Hillary ClintonIt’s an unusually turbulent election, in other words – so turbulent it could plausibly end with the fracturing of one of America’s great political parties. It could also deeply affect the future of marijuana policy from coast to coast.

But what are you supposed to do about it? Who needs politics when there are ounces and ounces of weed to smoke? And is it even important?

It is. And as it happens, you can play a critical role in the future of our country. Yeah, it’s a little uncool, and it takes time, and you have to swallow the imperfections of the candidate you support, but your vote will help send this country rocketing far to the left or far to the right.

Election will have massive implications for marijuana legalization

It matters, especially to American stoners. The end result of Election 2016 will determine what happens to the states where marijuana is legal for recreation or medicine and in states that could try to legalize in the future.

It will also either resolve or widen the deep chasm between the Democratic left and the Republican right. Donald Trump, who appears set to seize the GOP presidential nomination in August, has roiled the political waters with a disturbing personality never seen before in American presidential history.

On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is poised to beat Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and win that party’s nomination. For his part, Sanders is the first Democratic Socialist to win an American primary election and a strong supporter of full legalization.

Clinton vs. Trump contest is likely

Marijuana VoteAll this means the election will almost certainly be Clinton vs. Trump. Unfortunately, both candidates have declined to get specific about the future of marijuana reform, though Clinton has suggested she’s open to considering legalization.

Both have said they support medical cannabis, and there are no indications they’re likely to change that stance. But Trump is notorious for changing his positions, often several times, making his stance on full legalization something of a mystery. He said he favored it many years ago but more recently said he would oppose it. So it’s impossible to know for sure.

And that’s part of the problem facing potheads: Trump may not be a virulent anti-marijuana politician, but his candidacy already threatens the cohesion of the Republican Party and possibly the security of the United States.

A racist, sexist, dishonest bully

There are reasons other than weed to vote against Trump. The man is a racist, a bully, and a liar who has repeatedly demonstrated that he’s willing to say absolutely anything if it pleases his base. He simply can’t be trusted, not with legalization, not with anything.

Clinton may make for slow going, but at least she’s consistent in her stances. As a Democrat, she’s also relatively likely to come around on reform eventually. The choice is obvious, and many Republicans are already making it, saying they would rather vote for Clinton than Trump.

That will almost certainly cost him the election; Clinton could win in an unprecedented landslide. And that may suggest to you that your vote doesn’t count.

But the thing is, landslides – including the kind that could speed up legalization – require every single vote. Without the support of people who don’t normally show up at the polls, it would be a much closer race. And that could be a disaster for marijuana smokers. So please, get out and vote in your primary elections and in November. Your fellow stoners are counting on you.

Legalization is on its way in 2016, and everyone knows it. California, Nevada, Massachusetts – these and other states could all vote to legalize marijuana in the November election.

But why should they?

That would strike any stoner as a stupid question, but let’s ask it anyway: What are the best reasons for American voters to support cannabis reform? As you can guess, there are quite a few.

To Fix the Criminal Justice System

american flag jointThe United States locks up more people per capita for minor drug offenses than any country on Earth, many of them for simple marijuana possession. That means countless thousands of people – mostly young black men – have had their lives ruined by incarceration, probation, and the taint of a permanent criminal record.

Ending prohibition would lift a great weight off many struggling communities across the country. But it could also make life much easier for the police and prosecutors who too often come into conflict with those communities.

And that’s to say nothing of the money. Marijuana enforcement in America is a double-edged financial sword: It costs a lot of money but it also generates a lot of money. That’s because police are allowed to confiscate almost anything they think might be evidence of a drug crime, even if it plainly isn’t – including cars and large amounts of cash.

So cops have a reason to push back against legalization, as it would rob them of a cash cow. But reform would almost certainly save the government much more in enforcement costs than it would lose in confiscated property.

To Give More People Medical Marijuana

Medical marijuana is already legal to some degree in more than 30 states, but not everyone who needs it has access. Many patients have painful conditions that don’t qualify for treatment under state laws, even though cannabis could help them.

Full legalization would make the drug available to every adult who needs it, with or without a doctor’s recommendation. It would cost more once taxes are factored in, but even overpriced medical pot is better than no medical pot. And that’s another good reason to support legalization in 2016.

To Generate Tax Revenue

marijuana leaf and moneyIf reports out of Colorado, Washington, and the other places where marijuana is legal are any guide, state and local governments stand to bring in billions of dollars in tax revenue in coming years.

Together with the money saved on unnecessary law enforcement, governments will have enough extra cash to fund major projects, including school construction, drug education classes, and addiction treatment services.

At the same time, legalization allows governments to put tight regulations on the cannabis industry. Marijuana is still barred by federal law, but states and municipalities are given wide latitude to license and regulate businesses that grow, process, ship, or sell the drug.

To Protect Kids

Legalization, the theory goes, will make cannabis more widely available and thus easier for children to get their hands on. As it turns out, the theory is wrong.

In the years since Colorado and Washington first legalized in 2012, studies have shown that underage use of marijuana has not increased. In fact, it has dropped. Even as minors develop more realistic views of the drug, they’re choosing not to use it until they’re of age.

Legalization is a good thing, not a bad thing, even for many of the people who think it’s a bad thing. There are plenty of sound reasons to support reform wherever we live. The bigger question may be: Why wouldn’t we?

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