On the same night that voters in eight states were approving marijuana policy reform initiatives, Donald Trump was on his way to being elected the next President of the United States. While this divisive election has left some people jubilant and others outraged, many are wondering what a Trump presidency will mean for the future of marijuana policy reform efforts as well as the progress we have made so far.
While it is difficult to tell what will happen in the next administration, MPP is hopeful that the current federal policy of not targeting people and businesses in compliance with state marijuana laws will continue in the next administration.
Some things to consider:
-A clear majority of Americans think marijuana should be legal for adults, according to recent Pew Research Center and Gallup polls. Additionally, a clear majority of Americans think the federal government “should not” enforce federal marijuana laws in states that allow legal adult use, according to a March, 2015, Pew poll.
-Roughly 21% of the population now live in states where marijuana is legal for adults, and 62% live in states with effective medical marijuana laws.
-More people voted for marijuana initiatives than voted for Trump and other prominent politicians in several states.
-Even if Trump appoints someone who is against marijuana policy reform to head the Department of Justice, it would cost significant resources for federal law enforcement to start targeting state-legal marijuana businesses.
-U.S. Attorneys have significant discretion regarding how they prioritize enforcement of federal laws.
-The political consequences of ripping the marijuana market away from legitimate, tax-paying businesses and handing it right back to dangerous criminals would be severe.
-The number of Members of Congress who represent states with medical or adult-use marijuana laws is about to drastically increase, bringing us closer to Congressional support for ending federal prohibition regardless of the administration's position.
-During the campaign, Trump made several statements in support of medical marijuana and allowing states to determine their own marijuana policies, even though he does not support regulating marijuana for adult use.
No matter what happens, MPP and our allies will continue to work diligently toward changing both state and federal marijuana laws. Please make sure to contact your lawmakers and ask them to help us end the government's war on marijuana.
MPP has formally endorsed Libertarian Party nominee and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson in the race for president. Johnson is one of two candidates who received an "A+" grade in MPP's presidential candidate report card.
Below is a statement from our Executive Director, Rob Kampia, that contextualizes MPP's endorsement.
"MPP is a single-issue organization, and our mission is simple: 'Regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol in the United States.' We don't take a position -- and we therefore don't take into account a candidate's position -- on other issues, such as abortion, guns, gay rights, Iraq, taxes, or Social Security. We also don't work in Canada or Portugal.
"Of the three presidential candidates who will appear on the ballot in all 50 states and D.C., Gary Johnson clearly has the best position on marijuana policy. When he first advocated for legalization in 1999, he was the highest-ranking public official in the U.S. to do so -- as the sitting Republican governor of New Mexico, no less.
"Shortly after he left office, Johnson and I drove around New England lobbying the governors of VT and RI, the speaker of the NH House, and staffers in the NY governor's office. Johnson is a forceful advocate for legalization and is still one of MPP's strongest allies.
"Legalization has been Johnson's number-one issue for 17 years. MPP's endorsement of Johnson was an easy call; the more difficult question is whether MPP should support a candidate who's good on medical marijuana but bad on legalization, when the candidate is facing an opponent who's bad on everything.
"It's fine if voters prefer to consider a candidate's marijuana position in the context of a dozen other positions, but that's not MPP's mission. We're narrowly focused on marijuana policy and are happy to work alongside anyone who shares our mission, whether they're Socialists, Republicans, or otherwise."
There has been a lot of discussion about marijuana policy during the 2016 presidential race, but there are still some questions that the candidates need to address.
In order to get some answers, we have partnered with Change.org for the launch of ChangePolitics, a mobile elections platform that enables voters to engage with the candidates on the issues they care about by asking and upvoting questions.
- Do you think seriously ill people should be allowed to access medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it?
- Do you think it should be a crime for adults to consume marijuana responsibly? Why?
- If elected, how would your administration address the current tension between state and federal marijuana laws?
- Do you think marijuana prohibition has been more effective than alcohol prohibition, less effective, or equally effective?
MPP has been paying close attention to the slate of candidates running for president next year. Marijuana policy reform has been coming up more and more as the hopefuls try to adjust to increasing public support for ending prohibition, but could the issue have an impact on who is the next leader of the United States?
Last night, MPP's Dan Riffle spoke with Fox News about how marijuana initiatives could affect the 2016 presidential election.
Recent polls conducted in Iowa and New Hampshire in preparation for the presidential primary elections there show that a majority of voters in both parties think states should be able to carry out their own marijuana laws without federal interference. Public Policy Polling reports that 71% of Iowa respondents and 73% of New Hampshire respondents want the federal government to stay out of marijuana policy.
This poll also shows that support for state freedom in determining marijuana policy is non-partisan and has taken hold among Republicans as well as Democrats and Independents. 64% of Iowa Republicans and 67% of New Hampshire Republicans are in favor of the next president respecting state marijuana laws.
For more information, please visit Marijuana Majority.
On Monday, President Obama announced the commutation of 46 prisoners who were convicted of non-violent drug offenses.
From The New York Times:
President Obama announced on Monday that he was commuting the sentences of 46 federal drug offenders, more than doubling the number of nonviolent criminals to whom he has granted clemency since taking office.
“These men and women were not violent criminals, but the overwhelming majority had been sentenced to at least 20 years; 14 of them had been sentenced to life for nonviolent drug offenses, so their punishments didn’t fit the crime,” Mr. Obama said in a video released on the White House Facebook page, in which he is shown signing the commutation letters. “I believe that America, at its heart, is a nation of second chances, and I believe these folks deserve their second chance.”
Mr. Obama’s action on Monday brought the total number of commutations he has issued to 89, exceeding that of any president since Lyndon B. Johnson, who commuted 80 sentences during his tenure. It also meant that he has commuted more sentences than the last four presidents combined.
While it is unclear how many of those people were in prison for marijuana charges, this is a good sign that the administration, and the greater public, is open to substantive drug policy and criminal justice reform.
Most marijuana arrests do not result in jail time, but the collateral consequences can be still negatively impact a person for life.
However, there are a number of people serving long sentences for nonviolent marijuana offenses, some of them for life. The Department of Justice needs to reexamine these cases immediately.
For more information on the recent commutation, visit Whitehouse.gov.
Last Friday, MPP released the 2016 Presidential Candidates Report Card, which grades the various major candidates based on their support for marijuana policy reform or the willingness to allow it to move forward. Since then, a wide variety of news outlets have written about it, including The New York Times, Huffington Post, Washington Times, and others. In particular, there was quite a bit of interest in Republican Sen. Rand Paul receiving the highest grade of any candidate: A-.
The Washington Times reports:
Mr. Paul, received a grade of “A-” from the Marijuana Policy Project. The group said his grade was based largely on his sponsorship of a medical marijuana bill, support for reducing marijuana-related penalties and support for allowing states to regulate marijuana for adult use.
Mr. Christie and Mr. Santorum, meanwhile, two other GOP contenders, both received a grade of “F” “because they oppose reform efforts and they are the most vocal supporters of enforcing federal prohibition laws in states that have made marijuana legal,” the group said.
“Some of these guys who tout states’ rights, fiscal responsibility, and getting the government out of people’s private lives want to use federal tax dollars to punish adults for using marijuana in states that have made it legal,” said Mason Tvert, a spokesman for the group. “They say using marijuana is immoral or just too dangerous to allow, but serve alcohol, a more dangerous substance, at their fundraisers. The hypocrisy is astonishing.”
Not surprisingly, Sen. Paul has gotten a lot of attention this week by being the first presidential candidate to actively court the marijuana industry for campaign donations.
This Sunday, President Obama is expected to voice his support for allowing medical marijuana and moving away from jailing people for drug abuse.
The Daily Caller reports:
In a CNN special to be aired on Sunday, not only will President Barack Obama state his full support of medical marijuana, he’ll also advocate for alternative models of drug abuse treatment which don’t involve incarceration.
The television special, called “Weed 3,” features CNN’s chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon who came to support medical marijuana after reviewing the evidence. This time around, he’ll be delving into the politics of medical marijuana research and interviewing President Barack Obama, according to an email obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Obama has previously predicted that more states will follow the lead of Washington and Colorado in legalizing recreational marijuana, and confirmed that although marijuana is still illegal on the federal level, the Department of Justice will look the other way.
Last week, former President of Mexico and well-known marijuana reform advocate Vicente Fox told reporters that Mexico could legalize marijuana within the next five years.
Fox said that although Mexico’s current leader, President Enrique Pena Nieto, has stated his opposition to legalizing marijuana, impending legalization efforts in key U.S. states could force Mexico to follow their lead. “Once California gets into this,” Fox said, “Mexico is going to speed up its decision process.”
During Fox’s presidency from 2000 to 2006, he was tasked with battling Mexico’s powerful drug cartels. The country’s various efforts to hinder the cartels, including ramping up military attacks, have so far been unsuccessful and have resulted in even more bloodshed. By some estimates, the death toll for casualties of Mexico’s drug war has reached 100,000.
In response to the failure of traditional government tactics, Fox has become a staunch advocate for reforming drug laws, arguing that prohibition has been responsible for creating and sustaining the deadly gang activity. In addition to speaking out publicly against prohibition, Fox has been involved in political advocacy. Earlier this month, the former President met with marijuana reform advocates in San Francisco to discuss the formation of an international partnership dedicated to decriminalizing and regulating marijuana.
Although polls in Mexico reveal little popular support for marijuana legalization, there are pockets of strong support. One of Mexico’s major political parties recently announced its plan to introduce legislation that would make marijuana legal in Mexico City.
Singer, poet, public speaker, and talk show host Henry Rollins has joined the growing ranks of public figures who support ending marijuana prohibition.
Rollins is not a marijuana user, either. As more and more people realize that marijuana prohibition is a harmful failure, the myth that only potheads want to make it legal is continuing to fade into the hazy realm of reefer madness.
From a column he penned for last week’s LA Weekly:
Like millions of Americans, I have no interest in smoking marijuana but can't see any reason to keep someone of age from lighting up.
I don't think it is a "gateway" drug any more than alcohol. The behavior one has to engage in when utilizing a controlled substance -- the sneaking around, the hiding of the stash, etc. -- that could be a gateway to more devious activity, fueled by the resentment of authority that is potentially engendered. ….
The president and the attorney general could turn over a new leaf in America and leave all matters mary jane to the states as they see fit.