DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, issued the following statement regarding the recently announced draft legislation titled Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act.
GEORGIA: As state lawmakers consider a medical marijuana bill in Georgia, the measure is getting support from an unexpected source: a conservative Republican state representative.
During a radio interview on the Bryan Crabtree Show late last week, State Rep. David Clark (R) discussed HB 722, a proposal that would expand Georgia’s medical marijuana regime.
Clark, a self-described “Constitutional Conservative!!!!” gave a surprising and impassioned defense of medical marijuana.
“I do think it’s going to pass this session, and I think it should because pharmaceutical companies, those drugs and all that, have killed tens of thousands of people — overdoses and all that — every single year and we’ve never had an overdose on marijuana,” Clark said. “So I think it’s the right thing to do.”
During her factually troubled debate performance last week, Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina accidentally made at least one somewhat accurate remark: “We are misleading young people when we tell them that marijuana is just like having beer. It’s not.”
Fiorina is right — just not in the way she meant. She was arguing that pot is more dangerous than alcohol. But the evidence shows the opposite is true — marijuana is, in fact, safer than alcohol.
This distinction should be a big deal for Fiorina and other presidential candidates: Getting this right isn’t just a matter of being informed; it’s also key to understanding some of the major issues surrounding marijuana, alcohol, and drug policy today.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: While voters in Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia passed measures in favor of legalizing pot, Florida rejected the use of medical marijuana. The various campaigns and their outcomes offer valuable insights into the politics of pot, now that 17.5 million Americans live in states that permit retail marijuana.
Philip Wallach and John Hudak, who are experts in governance studies, summarize the key takeaways from Tuesday’s election results:
Legalization is not just for liberals: Previous ballot measures legalizing marijuana occurred in blue states, and that trend continued last night with the votes in Oregon and DC. But Alaska shows that marijuana initiatives can also succeed in conservative states — especially those with a libertarian inclination. “It is an issue that even red state voters — in a very Republican year — were willing to embrace. Who knows: maybe even the Republican-controlled Congress will decide the (increasingly illusory) status quo in federal law is due for reform.”
You have to pay to play: Ballot initiatives are expensive. For starters, getting them on the ballot requires an intense campaign of lobbying and collecting signatures. And then, during the elections, the advocacy money spent by the opposing sides of the issue can rival the amount spent in a race between two candidates.
ARIZONA: The University of Arizona has abruptly fired a prominent marijuana researcher who only months ago received rare approval from federal drug officials to study the effects of pot on patients suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.
The firing of Suzanne A. Sisley, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry, puts her research in jeopardy and has sparked indignation from medical marijuana advocates.
Sisley charges she was fired after her research – and her personal political crusading – created unwanted attention for the university from legislative Republicans who control its purse strings.
“This is a clear political retaliation for the advocacy and education I have been providing the public and lawmakers,” Sisley said. “I pulled all my evaluations and this is not about my job performance.”
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Ohio Republican Rob Portman, a leading figure in his party who is sometimes mentioned as a candidate for president in 2016, will call for a reevaluation of the “war on drugs” and the massive prison population it has created in a speech set for Tuesday and shared exclusively with BuzzFeed.
But Portman is also expected to warn that President Obama’s plan to use executive power to make reforms to drug sentencing could prevent larger, lasting changes from coming to pass.
“President Obama recently announced that he would grant clemency to hundreds of non-violent drug offenders,” Portman is set to say Tuesday in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute. “That may be within his power, but it’s like placing a Band-Aid on a deep wound. It may cover up the problem of prison overcrowding today, but it doesn’t address the deeper problem that drives recidivism.”
Portman’s words come as crime, punishment, and drugs emerge as a rare and unlikely point on which Democrats and Republicans in Washington are finding common ground. Conservatives like Portman, troubled by the vast federal spending on jails and seeking a distinctly conservative approach to crime and poverty, have found allies in Democrats and civil libertarians who have long argued for a less punitive approach to illegal drugs.
WISCONSIN: Wisconsin Democratic congressional candidate Amar Kaleka used medical marijuana in California on his doctor’s advice after his father was killed by a white supremacist at a Sikh temple near Milwaukee, he told The Associated Press on Friday.
Kaleka is mounting a longshot bid to unseat former Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan in the 2014 congressional election. Kaleka grew up in Milwaukee and lived in California for five years before returning to Wisconsin after the 2012 rampage.
Kaleka and his family sought therapy for their grief after the shooting, in which six people were shot by a white supremacist, who later died in a shootout with police.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Republicans eyeing the White House in 2016 are pushing their party to change its stance and accept a softening of federal marijuana laws — a dramatic shift from the GOP’s most recent contenders who railed against the drug and questioned its medicinal value.
Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has arguably been the most vocal on the subject, saying the federal government should leave the issue entirely to the states. Texas Gov. Rick Perry also argues that marijuana’s legal status should be a state issue, and he points to drug courts in his state that he said have helped move Texas toward decriminalization. [Read more…]