Politicians Who Oppose Marijuana Legalization Are On the Wrong Side of History

by on April 9, 2014 · 3 comments

in California, Civil Rights, Environment, Health, History

marijuanademrepsA majority of Americans support marijuana legalization.

By Tony Newman via AlterNet

A majority of Americans support marijuana legalization – yet not one sitting governor or U.S. Senator supports it, according to a New York Times piece.

Marijuana prohibition is a disastrous failure. 43 years after President Nixon launched the “war on drugs,” the U.S. arrests 650,000 people a year for marijuana possession – yet marijuana and other illegal drugs are as available as ever. Thanks to the drug war, the U.S. has less than five percent of the world’s population, yet nearly 25 percent of its prisoners.

Colorado and Washington made history in 2012 becoming the first states – and the first two political jurisdictions anywhere in the world – to legally regulate the production and distribution of marijuana, and many states are looking to follow soon. National polls showing majority support for marijuana legalization have been confirmed in states across the country – and not just in states you’d expect but even in Florida, Louisiana, Indiana, Ohio and Texas.

It’s inspiring to see the evolution of American public opinion, but disgusting to see the cowardice from our “leaders.” The Times story featured Democratic Governors Jerry Brown (California), Andrew Cuomo (New York) and Maggie Hassan (New Hampshire) all going against their constituents by defending marijuana prohibition.

Why would they continue to support marijuana prohibition, especially when polls show that voters overwhelmingly want marijuana legalized? In the Times piece, the Drug Policy Alliance’s Ethan Nadelmann said, “The fear of being soft on drugs, soft on marijuana, soft on crime is woven into the DNA of American politicians, especially Democrats.”

But being “soft on drugs” is an outdated concern. Can anyone name a politician in recent years who was hurt politically because they supported commonsense drug policy reform? I can’t think of any.

As prominent democratic pollster Anna Greenberg said in the same Times piece, “There is little evidence in most states that a politician would pay a price for supporting legalization. We’ve moved into a frame that’s not ideological. It’s about a system being broken, not working, and that legalization involves strict regulation that would allow the state to collect revenues. That makes a lot of sense to the kind of voters that electeds are most concerned about. If that’s the way it’s being discussed, it isn’t a liability for a politician.”

The growing momentum for marijuana legalization is often compared to the sea change of support for marriage equality. Support for both have taken off on similar trajectories. It has become clear to Democrats that supporting marriage equality is not only the right thing morally, but the right thing career-wise. This wasn’t always the case. Just a few years ago President Obama, former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton and others were much more cautious.

It’s telling that California’s Lieutenant Governor, Gavin Newsom, became one of the highest state-level officials to publically support of marijuana legalization. A decade ago, Newsom gained national attention as one of the most prominent politicians to support marriage equality.

It’s also telling that since the Obama administration gave the green light to Colorado and Washington’s efforts to legalize marijuana, and spoke out forcefully against mass incarceration, it has received almost universal praise with no negative political consequences.

It’s time for elected officials to take notice that support for drug policy reform and legalizing marijuana has no downside – and in fact, it can be a key asset to electoral success. In many places around the country, candidates are winning support and winning elections by supporting marijuana and drug policy reform.

Let’s hope that if the people keep leading, the leaders will soon follow. If not, many of those so-called leaders will be looking for new jobs.

This article first appeared on the Drug Policy Alliance Blog.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

OB Mercy April 9, 2014 at 3:41 pm

Let me add to this my disgust over Jerry Brown opposing it. Spilling an old secret here. I smoked pot with Jerry when he was going out with Linda Ronstadt back in the day. Hypocrite.


Marc S April 10, 2014 at 6:21 am

Hypocrite indeed! With public opinion where it is it doesn’t take much courage to defend marijuana use, medical or recreational. Guess it takes more courage than Jerry has though. Speaking of back in the day… Colorado and Washington are not the first states to do it, Alaska did it in 1975.


BossIlluminati April 10, 2014 at 7:56 am

the greatest plant in the universe is almost free, LET FREEDOM RING! 13

“any doctor against marijuana is a doctor of death” – cali secret 420

from 0 states to half the country, from low 20% approval to almost 70%, cali runs this planet by 2 decades, time to tie marijuana to the 2014, 2016 elections, out with the old, in with the new

20 years behind us southern states, sad and scary….nobody denies freedoms like the south, nobody…the top ten incarcerators on the planet are southern states…even if marijuana reforms did pass the republiCANTS in charge would deny you all your freedoms, centuries of practice…no matter though, we never planned on getting your backwards brethren from day one, half the country already but not one southern state, lol…not 1….the new generations are taking over in the south and they are nothing like their freedom denying parents, let’s ride…

Deaths by Alcohol: Millions
Deaths by Tobacco: Millions
Deaths by Prescription Drugs: Quadrupled in last decade
Deaths by Guns: Millions
Deaths by the food we are fed: Millions
Deaths by Marijuana: 0, ever…they are killing my American family while denying freedom

love and freedom forever



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