The change in public sentiment surrounding marijuana stems from two other policy changes. One is the successful legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Oregon, and the other is the recent change in sentiment and policies surrounding criminal justice reform.
With the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and numerous studies showing direct links between marijuana criminalization and disproportionate African-American arrests and incarceration, marijuana legalization and justice system reform are frequently considered an intertwined issue.
Bernie Sanders made marijuana an important issue in his presidential campaign, and it’s because of him that some say marijuana made it onto the DNC platform this year.
“What you are seeing behind the scenes is the Sanders campaign fighting to have all of their party platforms adopted and they are winning, for the most part. They are, at least on marijuana,” said Chris Goldstein, communications director of Philadelphia’s NORML chapter. “Most marijuana consumers are Bernie Sanders supporters. He really brought out the message.”
But Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, not Sanders, and advocates remain mixed as to whether she ultimately will be a true supporter of the policies. She’s never admitted to smoking weed—like Obama has—and reform wasn’t a key component of her campaign, but advocates seem to conclude she’s good enough.
“I’ve had a couple of conversations with Secretary Clinton and with her policy people. I know she knows it’s not rational that legal marijuana businesses shouldn’t have bank accounts, which is huge,” Blumenauer said, adding that Clinton agreed with him about the need to increase marijuana research, and that states should be in control of their own drug laws. “I am convinced that the Clinton administration could be as good or better than the Obama administration. And the Obama administration was the best in history on this.”
“Every indication that we have is that she’s fully supportive of allowing access to medical marijuana, and fully supportive of states adopting laws that regulate use for adults and broader use,” agreed Tvert of MPP, “which is certainly as strong if not stronger than the current administration.”
Tennessee Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen, also a long-time legalization advocate, seemed less convinced of Clinton’s role. When asked if he thought she would be a good messenger for the pro-legalization movement, he avoided the question, instead saying it’s going to come down to Congress.
“I think that the Democrats in congress will be largely responsible for the action that’s taken and the more Democrats in the Congress the better we are,” he said.
The Republicans considered adopting marijuana legislation in their party platform last week, but ultimately did not. Republican nominee Donald Trump has voiced support for marijuana legalization from time to time, but marijuana lobbies avoided the RNC.
“If the national Baptist convention was holding its annual conference in California, it still doesn’t mean it’s a great opportunity to raise money because all of the Baptists wouldn’t want to support legalization,” Tvert said.
Cohen used just as colorful language to describe the dismissal of the RNC, “If you wanted to eat steak, you go to Ruth’s Chris, you wouldn’t go to the Hungry Fisher. There would be no one there who would be too interested,” he said. “The Republican convention looked like 1953 in Kansas.”