The fate of federal marijuana policy reform is squarely in the hands of President Donald Trump, no matter what happens in November’s midterm elections, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said Friday.
During a briefing with reporters on her party’s legislative agenda in Washington, D.C., Pelosi was asked by journalist Matt Laslo whether a Democratically controlled Congress would push forward with cannabis-policy reform next year.
“Unlike in past elections, a lot of Democrats this year are running in support of marijuana reform or marijuana decriminalization,” Laslo asked. “If you guys can recapture control of the House, would you promise to bring those bills up for a vote? How would you deal with that—and is that a priority for you as speaker?”
“Well, the marijuana initiatives have received bipartisan support on the floor of the House,” Pelosi responded, likely referring to amendments to shield state medical cannabis laws that have been approved in past years. “I don’t know where the president is on any of this. So any decision about how we go forward would have to reflect where we can get the result.”
“But any success we could have would depend on the public weighing in,” she added. “Again, you’ve heard me say it, over and over: Public sentiment is everything.”
Watch the full exchange below:
Pelosi’s lack of clear commitment to prioritize cannabis legislation if Democrats control Congress in 2019 squares with comments made earlier this week by her second-in-command, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD).
“We haven’t talked about that,” Hoyer said when asked by Laslo.
Most political analysts believe Democrats will gain control of the House of Representatives. According to FiveThirtyEight, Democrats have an 80 percent chance of flipping between 17 and 59 seats.
Winning the House would allow Pelosi to set key committee assignments and decide which bills to bring to the floor. Obstructionism by several GOP committee chairs has prevented marijuana-reform bills from advancing during the current Congress.
Of course, legislation passed by Congress requires the president’s signature to become law. And that’s where Trump comes into the equation.
But despite the uncertainty Pelosi expressed about the president’s position, when asked about his views on a Senate bill that would enact sweeping marijuana reforms, Trump indicated in June that he would be inclined to sign it into law if it were sent to his desk.
The president has said little else about his views on marijuana reform since taking office.
As Pelosi pointed out Friday, marijuana reform has proven more popular than most political issues or politicians in the country—chief among them Trump himself.
The minority leader referenced a poll taken earlier this year on voter support for the president and issues like tax reform in the western Pennsylvania congressional district where Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb scored an upset victory in April
“But guess what was more popular than both of them? Marijuana!” Pelosi said. “In that district, is that stunning?”
Indeed, the survey found that likely voters in Lamb’s district—which Trump carried in 2016—support legalizing marijuana by a margin of 46 percent to 43 percent.
And it is possible that medical cannabis, which launched in Pennsylvania earlier this year to great fanfare and booming sales, helped Lamb win his seat.
In a debate in March, Lamb said he supported medical cannabis as well as legalization.
As for Democratic leadership, Pelosi stopped short from a full-throated endorsement and also declined to declare cannabis reform a top priority.
“I don’t know what form it will take, but I have supported these initiatives in my own state of California,” she said. “So I’ll see what is possible.”
Photo courtesy of Ted Eytan.
People With Marijuana Convictions Should Know About National Expungement Week
Marijuana legalization is a solid first step, but there’s still a lot of work to be done to resolve socioeconomic and racial inequities brought about by the war on drugs.
Hence, we now have National Expungement Week. The first-of-its-kind campaign, supported by a coalition of cannabis and social justice organizations called the Equity First Alliance, is taking place from October 20-27.
The organizations will offer “expungement and other forms of legal relief to some of the 77 million Americans with convictions on their records,” according to the campaign website. “These convictions can restrict access to housing, employment, education, public assistance, and voting rights long after sentences have been served.”
In an open letter, the alliance also said it was “largely unsupported by the cannabis industry and by the traditional funders of equity work.” While a main argument in support of legalization is that it would help to repair drug war damages, which have disproportionately affected communities of color, the laws and markets created by the successful movement haven’t necessarily lived up to its name, the alliance wrote.
To that end, the campaign has organized events across the country—from Los Angeles to Boston—to provide legal services to those whose criminal records are able to be reduced or expunged. You can check out the full list of events here.
The alliance’s agenda touches on numerous reform policies, including using marijuana tax revenue to fund communities that have been impacted by prohibition, implementing social equity programs, ensuring corporate responsibility for businesses that profit off cannabis and providing affordable medical cannabis for low-income patients, among other policies.
“We believe that we have a short but vital window of opportunity to change the course of the cannabis industry—and by doing so, we can prevent further harms to the most impacted communities and create a model of reparative economic and criminal justice.”
Adam Vine, co-founder of Cafe-Free Cannabis and an organizer with the campaign, told Marijuana Moment that the campaign is necessary “because millions of Americans have been harmed by the war on drugs and continue to face collateral consequences for convictions that may have happened years ago.”
“These consequences restrict people’s access to employment, housing, education, and social services, so our coalition decided to do something about it,” he said. “We are coordinating these events to provide free legal relief and to say that as states move towards cannabis legalization, expungement needs to be the first priority.”
Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.
Chris Christie Finally Recognizes Marijuana Legalization As States’ Rights Issue
Famously anti-marijuana former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) isn’t jumping on the pro-legalization train any time soon—but new comments suggest he might be softening his opposition a smidge, recognizing marijuana reform as a states’ rights issue.
Speaking at Politicon on Saturday, Christie took a question about his cannabis stance from YouTuber Kyle Kulinski, who asked him to weigh in on studies showing that states with legal marijuana programs experience lower rates of opioid addiction and overdoses compared to non-legal states. He was quick to dismiss the research, contending that other studies show the “exact opposite.”
“I just don’t believe when we’re in the midst of a drug addiction crisis that we need to legalize another drug,” Christie said, echoing comments he’s made as chair of President Donald Trump’s opioids committee.
Then he pivoted, acknowledging that some will push back on his anti-legalization position by pointing out that alcohol is legal. “I get that,” he said, “but I wasn’t here when we legalized alcohol.”
Kulinski seized on that point and asked the former governor if he’d vote to ban alcohol.
“No, I wouldn’t ban it. You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube, and that’s a big, important argument about marijuana because once you legalize this, that toothpaste never goes back in the tube.”
Christie stood out among other Republican and Democratic contenders during his 2016 presidential run by maintaining that in addition to personally opposing legalization, he’d crack down on legal cannabis states and enforce federal laws nationwide if elected.
“If you’re getting high in Colorado today, enjoy it,” Christie said in 2015. “As of January 2017, I will enforce the federal laws.”
So it came as something of a surprise when the former governor went on to say in the Politicon appearance that “states have the right to do what they want to do on this,” signaling a modest shift in his anti-marijuana rhetoric. States should have that right even though, as Christie put it, “broad legalization of marijuana won’t, in my view, alleviate or even minimize the opioid crisis.”
It’s unclear what’s behind the apparent shift from hardline prohibitionist to wary federalist, but who knows… maybe Christie experienced an epiphany at a Melissa Etheridge concert he attended earlier this month.
Etheridge, who recently spoke with Marijuana Moment about her cannabis advocacy and use of the drug for medicinal purposes, reacted to a tweet showing Christie at one of her recent performances, where he reportedly knew every word of her songs and sang along.
— Melissa Etheridge (@metheridge) October 6, 2018
Christie, for his part, replied that he “enjoyed every minute of a great performance and a truly wonderful group of fans.”
And enjoyed every minute of a great performance and a truly wonderful group of fans https://t.co/TQdJ8fzkTM
— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) October 6, 2018
Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore.
Marijuana Support Grows: Two Out Of Three Americans Back Legalization, Gallup Says
Two-thirds of Americans now support legalizing marijuana, the highest percentage ever in Gallup’s ongoing decades-long series of national polls on the topic.
The new survey released on Monday shows that U.S. adults back ending cannabis prohibition by a supermajority margin of 66 percent to 32 percent. That’s more than a two-to-one ratio.
(Marijuana Moment’s editor provides some content to Forbes via a temporary exclusive publishing license arrangement.)
Photo courtesy of Jurassic Blueberries.