California officials released regulations on Thursday laying the groundwork for how the cannabis legalization initiative will work. Even as businesses focus on preparing license applications, however, the state's new marijuana regime unavoidably clashes with ongoing federal prohibition.
The Obama administration took a largely hands-off approach to cannabis after Colorado and Washington legalized it for recreational purposes in 2012. But while
Maybe. Maybe not.
Also worrisome is that she consistently describes the drug war in the past tense. For example: "The war on drugs was a failure. It criminalized what is a public health matter. It was a war on poor communities more than anything."
It's still a present-tense issue, though. There are more than 1.5 million drug arrests in the United States every year, including 600,000 for marijuana alone. The drug war did not end during the Obama administration; it isn't a relic of the past that we merely need to stop the Trump administration from reinstating. Senators — especially ones representing places where voters have chosen to make marijuana legal — should be actively working to end federal prohibition.
A common refrain among Capitol Hill insiders is that drug policy is a dangerous third rail of politics best avoided by ambitious pols who don't want to be tarred as "soft on crime." But while that conventional wisdom may have been true when Feinstein arrived in Washington in 1992, it's no longer the case.
California's cannabis legalization measure got nearly half a million more votes than Harris did when it appeared on the same ballot as her name. Gallup reported last month that 64% of Americans support legalizing marijuana. Among Democrats, more than seven out of 10 are on board. And even a majority of Republicans now want to end prohibition.
Several members of the state's U.S. House delegation, from both parties, seem to understand that embracing cannabis reform is smart politics as well as good policy.
Newer members seem to understand the changing politics of marijuana, too.
Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) sponsored a successful House floor amendment to slash the Drug Enforcement Administration's marijuana-eradication budget and use the savings to help the victims of child abuse. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) is pressing for military veterans' access to medical marijuana. Ro Khanna (D-Fremont) tweets about cannabis regularly.
Not everyone in the delegation gets it, though. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) consistently opposes measures to protect California marijuana laws from federal attacks. And while Minority Leader
A survey of California politicians' views on any issue will inevitably generate mixed results. But those seeking reelection should think seriously about whether they can afford to be seen as soft on the drug war.
Marijuana legalization is, after all, way more popular with voters than lawmakers are.
Tom Angell has worked in cannabis policy for more than 15 years and publishes the news site Marijuana Moment.