None have been more at the forefront of modern day Reefer Madness than the marijuana prohibition crusaders Governor Chris Christie and Attorney General Jeffrey Sessions. While it is true that there are more Republicans that oppose marijuana legalization there are also quite a few Democrats keeping prohibition alive and well.
In 2016 Democrats embraced a so-called, “pathway to legalization,” however there were several prominent members of the party that broke away from this platform.
Project SAM, co-founded by Patrick Kennedy, a former congressman from Rhode Island is a national group whose mission is to fight marijuana legalization. Kennedy was recently appointed to newly elected Governor Phil Murphy’s transition team.
Kennedy’s position on marijuana users is pretty straightforward, get treatment or go to jail. New Jersey’s chances for legalization certainly don’t get any better with Kennedy around. Currently, New Jersey Arrests more than 25,000 people a year on possession charges.
Kevin Sabet an Obama administration DEA advisor knows Kennedy well, they have spent years lobbying both Federal and State legislators. Their common goal is to delay and defeat any referendum or bill that would move legalization forward. Efforts they have made have been quite effective, and their lobbying has played a role in the restrictions and regulations governing medical cannabis.
Lifelong Democrats Sabet and Kennedy are well connected and deeply established in their party. These tag team talking heads have often spoken together with the press as well as at policy conferences. Their organizations have spent millions of dollars to defeat legalization efforts.
This dynamic duo of don’t are allied in their cause with Republicans, Matthew Baker a Republican Representative from Pennsylvania praised Kennedy’s floor speech against Medical cannabis in 2016.
While he is popular with the Republicans most of Kennedy’s support comes from the Democrats.
Speaker Craig Coughlin, as well as State Senator Ronald Rice of New Jersey, have announced their desire to slow progress toward legalization in the days following Governor-elect, Phil Murphy’s victory. Citing fear of the fine print in the current bill is the reasoning for Coughlin. Rice has concerns that seem to be from 19th-century myths about marijuana.
Democrats were in the State majority in Trenton, and John Corzine was in office when the laws in New Jersey limited medical marijuana to six dispensaries statewide and banned home cultivation. The same players are in power for the most part as when the laws were passed in 2009.
Across the Delaware Reading, Pennsylvania mayor Wally Scott stormed out of a City Council meeting this fall following a vote to move forward with marijuana legalization statewide. His tirade made national news, and he followed that coverage with a propaganda video based on antiquated positions. Shunned by local Democrats, Scott appealed to President Trump for support. His appeal went unanswered.
While the Pennsylvania Democrats are supporting legalization efforts, public polling is showing support, and Governor Tom Wolf is up for reelection it would seem cannabis is poised for a breakthrough.
Disappointingly Governor Wolf, a supporter of social justice and an advocate for the states medical cannabis progress has taken a wait and see approach to recreational cannabis.
When cannabis is on the ballot, people show up to the polls and vote. Democrats would be wise to embrace this public support as 60% of Americans are in favor of marijuana legalization.