A lot has changed regarding marijuana in recent years. Once upon a time, it seemed as if there was a snowball’s chance in hell of it ever becoming legal. Slowly but surely, though, support for the legalization of marijuana grew and in 2011, a majority of Americans (51%) expressed their approval of legal cannabis. A 2017 Gallup Poll has since seen that number rise to 64%, which is the highest level of support in over 50 years.
While public support should help the cause, it is down to the men and women in power to make it happen. With so many of them in thrall to the pharmaceutical industry, though, it is proving difficult for pro-marijuana politicians to get legislation through. Although pro-legalization campaigns routinely raise more money during campaigns, there is little they can do on a federal level as it is down to the politicians. In this article, we look at five pro, and five anti-cannabis politicians.
1 – Jeff Sessions (R)
There is arguably no bigger “weedkiller” in the United States than Attorney General Jeff Sessions. It wouldn’t be so bad if he bothered to arm himself with relevant information, but instead, he falls back on easily disproven clichés such as suggesting marijuana is a gateway drug. Also, everyone knows he is a racist, a fact proven when he said he “thought the KKK were okay until I found out they smoked pot.”
So racial abuse is okay, but using a naturally grown plant is bad? Unfortunately, Sessions is the Attorney General which means he is the nation’s highest-ranking law enforcement official. Therefore, when he says that he intends to crack down on marijuana users by increasing prison sentences, we should be worried.
2 – John Boozman (R)
Boozman is a senator from Arkansas and has voted against every single minor marijuana reform he has come across. According to him, states with medical weed are ‘free for alls’ where physicians prescribe marijuana for everything. Oddly enough, we could say the same about opioids, with the major difference is that weed doesn’t kill nearly 100 people a day.
3 – Mitch McConnell (R)
The Kentucky senator is also the Senate Majority leader, so his opinion carries a lot of weight. Unfortunately, McConnell is vehemently opposed to the legalization and believes the entire movement is a huge mistake. He believes weed will bring society into a bad place and has voted against every cannabis reform bill that has come to a vote in the Senate.
4 – Mark Kirk (R)
Kirk also has the dubious honor of voting ‘no’ on every single marijuana issue in the last few years. His actions have earned him an ‘F’ grade from reform activist group NORML, and the Illinois senator is unquestionably one of the strongest anti-marijuana politicians in America. Like everyone else on the ‘Nay’ side of the list, Kirk believes in all the negative stereotypes; he thinks all weed users are ‘burnouts,’ and he wants complete restrictions on the drug and plans to introduce bills to increase prison sentences for marijuana offenses.
5 – Deb Fischer (R)
Fischer is a senator from Nebraska who says that legal weed poses too big a threat to children. In 2016, she introduced a bill designed to reduce the Department of Justice’s funding if it didn’t introduce stricter policies to monitor states where cannabis is legal. She is also concerned that marijuana is being transported across state lines from Colorado, where it is legal.
1 – Jeff Merkley (D)
The senator from Oregon was one of the first politicians in America to speak out in favor of legalizing marijuana. Back in 2014, in fact, when he offered his support for Measure 91 in Oregon, he was the only one out of 100 U.S. senators to announce his support for full legalization. It was a major political risk at the time, but since then, Merkley has fought to create a lot of change for the better, including improving banking rules in his home state (while weed is legal in Oregon for recreational use, banks typically refuse to deal with marijuana companies).
2 – Cory Booker (D)
The New Jersey senator believes that the legalization of marijuana is as much a social justice issue as anything, although he also believes it is a better alternative to pharmaceutical drugs for medicinal purposes. Booker said that he doesn’t understand why America is singling out weed when there are more dangerous, toxic and challenging drugs that are just as easily available to buy. He also said: “We have seen so much of our national treasure spent in the drug war.”
3 – Elizabeth Warren (D)
There is a suggestion that the senator from Massachusetts could run for the Presidency in 2020. If she did, and won the election, it would be a major boost in the quest to legalize weed, especially if the Democrats gain control of the House or Senate. Not only does Warren want pot to be legalized, but she is also fighting against the banking restrictions faced by marijuana sellers in the United States.
4 – Rand Paul (R)
Paul is the first Republican to make the pro-cannabis list, and his arguments are rooted in common sense and compassion. Although he (surprisingly) has an (R) next to his name, the senator from Kentucky is best known for his libertarian views (libertarians believe in a federal government with less power) as he opposes federal interference in legal weed programs. He has thrown his support behind the CARERS Act and believes that patients with terminal conditions should be allowed to try any medication they wish.
5 – Mike Lee (R)
Lee makes this list for having the courage to stand up to Jeff Sessions during the Attorney General’s Senate nomination hearing. The Utah senator asked Sessions about the separation of powers and how they could impact marijuana laws. Lee forced Sessions to admit that he believed the Government should enforce federal weed laws in states where the plant is legal. It was a crucial question because Sessions’ answer added a jolt to the pro-marijuana side, as they realize what they are up against.
All but one of the nine states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use did so via the ballot box. Therefore, it is easy to assume that voters have all the power. However, while the people can vote to legalize cannabis in individual states, they are powerless to prevent politicians like Jeff Sessions from using the Federal Government to crack down on the herb in states were it is legal.
As a result, we have to depend on politicians such as Rand Paul and Cory Booker to fight for marijuana legalization on a federal level. It will be a tough fight, but if the Democrats gain control of the House and/or Senate in the 2018 mid terms and win the 2020 Presidential Election, the tide could change completely.
Photo Source: Flickr