In this year’s race for Arizona’s open U.S. Senate seat, neither major party candidate has made strong statements in support of cannabis law reform, but voting records from the House, where both contenders are current members, show a contrast on the issue.
Democrat Kyrsten Sinema has been given a B rating by NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, for having supported a number of pro-reform measures. Her opponent, Republican Martha McSally, got a C rating from the group, having for the most part rejected cannabis proposals that have come before the House.
During her term, Sinema has voted in favor of various proposals to protect state adult use and medical marijuana programs, including a 2015 amendment to shield state marijuana laws from federal interference as well as one in 2014 and 2015 covering local medical cannabis policies. She also supported a narrower measure focused on state CBD laws, as well as three separate amendments in 2014, 2015 and 2016 that would have allowed doctors from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to recommend medical marijuana.
She also signed on as a co-sponsor of the Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act of 2015 and the SAFE Act of 2017, which also covers cannabis businesses’ financial services access issues.
Still, despite her positive voting record and legislative co-sponsorship, Sinema has made very few public statements of her own on the issue of marijuana law reform. In 2009, she tweeted a quote by the late Senator Carolyn Allen of Arizona: “Re: voting for budget. ‘I don’t know what they’re smoking… But if it’s marijuana, we ought to be taxing it.”
Re: voting for budget. “I don’t know what they’re smoking,” [Senator Carolyn] Allen said. “But if it’s marijuana, we ought to be taxing it.”
— Kyrsten Sinema (@kyrstensinema) August 6, 2009
As a supporter of marijuana banking, she’s received donations from the National Cannabis Industry Association, according to the prohibitionist group Smart Approaches to Marijuana.
On the other hand, Republican McSally has voted against all marijuana legislation during her time in Congress, except one measure: the 2016 Blumenauer Amendment to allow VA doctors to recommend medical cannabis. Otherwise, she’s stood against legislation to protect state medical marijuana laws, state adult use marijuana laws, state CBD laws, medical cannabis for veterans and industrial hemp.
McSally has also accepted more than $56,000 in campaign contributions from companies in the alcohol, pharmaceutical and tobacco industries, according to columnist Kris Craig, who called on the congresswoman to support legalizing marijuana. “How can we expect her not to be influenced by all that money?” he asked.
Meanwhile this past June, McSally tweeted about the country’s opioid crisis, but made no mention of medical marijuana as a safer painkilling alternative. “This ad campaign is a powerful move by the White House to bring awareness to our youth about the painful truth of opioid addiction,” she wrote. “Next week, the House will consider measure to help curtail this epidemic.” Cannabis didn’t come up until another Twitter user pointed out in reply that medical marijuana should be legalized federally.
This ad campaign is a powerful move by the @WhiteHouse to bring awareness to our youth about the painful truth of opioid addiction. 💊 Next week, the House will consider measures to help curtail this epidemic. https://t.co/Db2DikAuQk
— Martha McSally (@RepMcSally) June 7, 2018
Despite neither candidate having been particularly vocal about marijuana issues on the campaign trail, the contrasting House voting record of the two contenders gives voters an indication of where they would stand on similar measures brought before the Senate.
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.
North Dakota Marijuana Legalization Measure Winning In Latest Poll
North Dakota voters appear poised to legalize marijuana via a ballot measure next month, according to a new poll.
Measure 3, which would legalize cannabis for adults 21 and over in one of the country’s most conservative states—and with no possession limits—is ahead among likely voters by a margin of 51 percent to 36 percent in the survey released on Sunday.
North Dakota has brought marijuana policy reform supporters pleasant surprises before. Medical cannabis was approved there by an overwhelming majority of voters in 2016, for example, and will be available to patients sometime in 2019.
And despite little pro-legalization funding and relatively large spending in opposition to the ballot measure—a flip of the usual paradigm seen in most other states with cannabis initiatives—libertarian-leaning and younger voters on the prairie appear to be pushing Measure 3 towards a slim victory.
The results sharply contrast to those of another poll released earlier this month, which found the marijuana measure losing, 59 percent to 30 percent.
And although legalization support was significantly larger than opposition in the new survey, 13 percent of the 412 respondents say they are still undecided, leaving the issue very much in balance in the lead up to Election Day.
Nonetheless, legalization advocates are pleased with the new polling result.
“Despite a big-money funded misinformation campaign from the opposition, this poll reveals that most North Dakotans are ready to end the failed prohibition of marijuana in the state,” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said in a press release. “By voting ‘Yes’ on Measure 3, North Dakotans could save the state millions of taxpayer dollars currently being spent on arresting otherwise law-abiding adults for possession of a plant that is objectively less harmful than legal alcohol and tobacco, allow law enforcement to allocate their limited resources to focus on violent crime, and defend individual freedom.”
But activists know that the opposition has more money, and aren’t taking anything for granted over the next few weeks.
“The message of ending marijuana arrests is resounding in North Dakota, and these results demonstrate that voters are hearing our call for action. This is a dogfight, and LegalizeND will continue to set the record straight when it comes to adult-use marijuana,” Cole Haymond, a campaign advisory for Legalize ND, said.
Consistent with other states where medical marijuana has become legal, the measure performed best with voters under 50 in the new poll. Fifty-seven percent of respondents were 50 or older, suggesting that if younger voters turn out on Election Day, the measure may stand an even better chance of success.
“Passage of Measure 3 is greatly dependent upon the voters under the age of 50 voting in at least their historical percentages,” reads a polling memo by The Kitchens Group, which conducted the survey. “If the electorate is skewed toward the older, more conservative voters, passage could be problematic.”
But Measure 3 is being sold to voters on a personal responsibility platform, with emphasis on harsher penalties for sales to minors—and on marijuana’s proven ability to alleviate opiate-related overdoses and deaths.
When these aspects of the ballot measure were mentioned to poll respondents, support increased by the end of the eight-question survey.
Both before and after the push-polling, the percentage of voters who said they would “definitely” vote no stayed at a consistent 29 percent, suggesting that North Dakota has only a hardcore minority of prohibition-minded voters, with many more undecideds and pro-legalization voters.
The ballot measure is very far-reaching compared to those proposed in other states. It would allow possession, cultivation and sales of marijuana, with no set limits, though lawmakers would almost certainly enact regulations in the event of the measure’s passage. It would also expunge prior cannabis convictions.
The poll was conducted between October 11 and 14, and has a margin of error or +/- 4.9 percentage points.
Voters in seven states will consider marijuana ballot measures on Election Day this year.
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Measure 3 legalized only small amounts of marijuana. The text of Measure 3 legalizes marijuana for adults 21 and over with no possession limits. This article has been updated.