U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is shifting her decades-old stance in favor of federal marijuana prohibition, she said in an interview with McClatchy on Tuesday.
The California senator has consistently declined to endorse state ballot initiatives to reform marijuana laws—including the state’s historic medical cannabis proposition in 1996 and its 2016 recreational marijuana legalization bid. She has also voted against efforts in Congress to shield medical marijuana patients and providers from federal interference.
But in a surprise about face, Feinstein said that she now backs efforts to prevent federal intervention in California’s legal marijuana program.
“Federal law enforcement agents should not arrest Californians who are adhering to California law,” she told McClatchy, saying that her views shifted after meeting constituents who have benefited from medical cannabis.
To some, the timing of Feinstein’s reversal is suspect. The moderate Democrat, who has represented the state in the Senate since 1992, is facing reelection competition from a progressive challenger, Kevin de Leon, whose views on the issue are decidedly friendlier to cannabis reform. De Leon, a California state senator, condemned the Trump administration’s decision to rescind federal protections for states that passed marijuana laws in January, for example.
Feinstein’s shift on marijuana legalization “is not surprising,” Jonathan Underland, a spokesperson for de Leon, told Marijuana Moment. “It is good to see that Senator Feinstein is catching up to what voters knew 22 years ago, but values should transcend political quests to hold on to power.”
The move also comes shortly after Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), himself a longtime proponent of the war on drugs, announced plans to introduce legislation to remove marijuana from the list of federally banned substances.
The time has come to decriminalize marijuana. My thinking – as well as the general population’s views – on the issue has evolved, and so I believe there’s no better time than the present to get this done. pic.twitter.com/EIHgsI8j6C
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) April 20, 2018
The recent paradigm shift in marijuana politics has taken various forms, including a bill introduced by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) to legalize marijuana at the federal level, which has been co-sponsored by prominent lawmakers such as Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).
De Leon pledged to join Sanders as a co-sponsor of the legislation if he won his Senate bid.
.@CoryBooker's bill recognizes that legal cannabis is the law of the land in California and many other states. More importantly, it corrects deep-rooted racial disparities in our criminal justice system. I would join @SenSanders as a cosponsor in a heartbeat. https://t.co/YKvLTMm8u7
— Kevin de Leόn (@kdeleon) April 20, 2018
“[Booker’s] bill recognizes that legal cannabis is the law of the land in California and many other states,” he wrote. “More importantly, it corrects deep-rooted racial disparities in our criminal justice system. I would join [Sanders] as a cosponsor in a heartbeat.
Photo courtesy of Neon Tommy.
O’Rourke And Cruz Clash On Marijuana And Drugs At Senate Debate
Candidates in one of the most contentious U.S. Senate races in the country this year clashed about the issues of marijuana legalization and drug policy reform during a debate on Friday night.
“I want to end the war on drugs and specifically want to end the prohibition on marijuana,” Democratic Congressman Beto O’Rourke said in response to an attack on his drug policy record from Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, whom he is seeking to unseat in November.
During one of the most heated exchanges of the hour-long debate, the GOP incumbent slammed O’Rourke for sponsoring an amendment as an El Paso city councilman in 2009 that called for a debate on legalizing drugs as a possible solution to violence along the Mexican border.
“I think it would be a profound mistake to legalize all narcotics and I think it would hurt the children of this country,” Cruz argued.
He also criticized a bill the Democrat filed in Congress to repeal a law that reduces highway funding for states that don’t automatically suspend drivers licenses for people convicted of drug offenses. “That’s a real mistake and it’s part of pattern,” he said.
“There’s a consistent pattern when it comes to drug use, that in almost every single instance, Congressman O’Rourke supports more of it.”
Calling the issue “personal to me,” Cruz spoke about his older sister, who died of a drug overdose.
“To be clear, I don’t want to legalize heroin and cocaine and fentanyl,” O’Rourke countered.
“What I do want to ensure is that where, in this country, most states have decided that marijuana will legal at some form—for medicinal purposes or recreational purposes or at a minimum be decriminalized—that we don’t have another veteran in this state, prescribed an opioid because the doctor at the VA would rather prescribe medicinal marijuana but is prohibited by law from doing that,” he said.
It’s time to end the war on drugs. That starts by ending the federal prohibition on marijuana.
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) September 21, 2018
Enumerating other potential beneficiaries of cannabis reform, the Democrat also referenced an “older woman with fibromyalgia” and “an African-American man, because more likely than not, that’s who will be arrested for possession of marijuana, to rot behind bars, instead of enjoying his freedom and the opportunity to contribute to the greatness of this country.”
Cruz, who called O’Rourke, “one of the leading advocates in the country for legalizing marijuana,” said that he thinks ending cannabis prohibition “is actually a question on which I think reasonable minds can differ.”
“I’ve always had a libertarian bent myself,” he said. “I think it ought to be up to the states. I think Colorado can decide one way. I think Texas can decide another.”
But despite his support for letting states set their own cannabis laws, which he also voiced during his failed candidacy for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, Cruz hasn’t cosponsored a single piece of legislation during his time in the Senate that would scale back federal marijuana prohibition.
Ted Cruz accidentally advocating against marijuana legalization, an incredibly popular policy in the country and in Texas…
— Texas College Dems (@CollegeDemsTX) September 21, 2018
Earlier in the debate, the two sparred over the killing this month of Botham Jean, an African-American man shot in his own apartment by a Dallas police officer, a subject about which O’Rourke recently made headlines by calling out in a fiery speech to a black church.
Photo courtesy of NBC News.
Lawmaker Pushes For Marijuana Legalization In Kenya
A Kenyan lawmaker is introducing legislation to legalize marijuana nationwide.
Member of Parliament Kenneth Okoth wrote a letter to the National Assembly speaker on Friday, requesting help to prepare the legislation so that it can be published.
The bill would decriminalize cannabis possession and use, clear criminal records of those with prior cannabis-related convictions, enact a legal and regulated commercial sales program and impose “progressive taxation measures” in order to “boost economic independence of Kenya and promote job creation.”
It's high time Kenya dealt with the question of #marijuana like we do for miraa, tobacco, and alcohol#DecriminalizeIt #LegalizeIt #RegulateIt #TaxIt #HarmReduction #PettyOffences @YoungMPsKenya @HumanRightsMPs @KEWOPA @ICJKenya @lawsocietykenya @shecyclesnbi @DavidNdii @gathara pic.twitter.com/6ISnxjt2gS
— Kenneth Okoth, MP Kibra (@okothkenneth) September 21, 2018
Currently, marijuana (or “bhang,” as it’s locally known) is illegal in Kenya—as it is in most of Africa.
Another provision of the draft legislation concerns “research and policy development.” Okoth wants the country to conduct studies on the medical, industrial, textile and recreational applications of cannabis. And that research would have a “focus on the preservation of intellectual property rights for Kenyan research and natural heritage, knowledge, and our indigenous plant assets,” according to the letter.
Kenya Gazette special issue "..Act of Parliament to decriminalize the growth and use of Marijuana.." pic.twitter.com/gXFNx8ehbC
— The African Voice (@teddyeugene) September 21, 2018
“It’s high time Kenya dealt with the question of marijuana like we do for tobacco, miraa, and alcohol,” Okoth wrote on Facebook.
“Legalize, regulate, tax. Protect children, eliminate drug cartels, reduce cost of keeping petty offenders in jail. Promote research for medical purposes and protect our indigenous knowledge and plants before foreign companies steal and patent it all.”
Okoth’s push for legalization in Kenya comes days after South Africa’s Constitutional Court ruled that individuals can grow and use marijuana for personal purposes. The court determined that prohibition violated a person’s right to privacy, effectively legalizing cannabis in the country.
It’ll take a while for Okoth’s bill to move forward. The legislation will need cabinet approval, then it must be published so that all interested parties can review the proposal before it enters into parliamentary debates. Whether Okoth’s fellow lawmakers will embrace the legislation is yet to be seen.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.
Governor Signs Marijuana Legalization Bill, Making History In US Territory
With a governor’s signature on Friday, the latest place to legalize marijuana in the U.S. isn’t a state. It’s the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI)—a tiny Pacific territory with a population of just over 50,000.
Under the new law signed by Gov. Ralph Torres (R), adults over 21 years of age will be able to legally possess up to one ounce of marijuana, as well as infused products and extracts. Regulators will issue licenses for cannabis producers, testing facilities, processors, retailers, wholesalers and lounges. Home cultivation of a small number of plants will be allowed.
(Marijuana Moment’s editor provides some content to Forbes via a temporary exclusive publishing license arrangement.)
Photo courtesy of Max Pixel.