Some politicians are slowly discovering that lingering fears about being labeled “soft on crime” for supporting marijuana reform are unwarranted.
In May, two Democrats upset Establishment favorites by running in favor of marijuana reform. Beto O’Rourke, who favors the total legalization of marijuana, won the primary to run for Congress from Texas’ 16th Congressional District, a safely Democratic district that borders Mexico’s drug-violence-ridden Ciudad Juarez. Ellen Rosenblum won the primary for state attorney general in Oregon and has no Republican challenger; she beat her Democratic opponent largely on a platform supporting medical marijuana and opposing federal interference with it.
On June 13, Rhode Island became the 15th state to decriminalize marijuana. Governor Lincoln Chafee signed a bill making possession of small amounts of pot no worse than a parking ticket.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg have both recently called for the decriminalization of open possession of marijuana. Possession itself was decriminalized in the state in 1977, but due to a quirk of state law that makes it a crime to show the drug visibly, people are still being arrested after police, following “stop and frisk” policies, order them to empty their pockets.
While national politicians remain mired in late-’90s thinking that suggests supporting the drug war is the only viable position, national polling trends (especially by age) and state-level political movements indicate that serious consideration of marijuana reform makes sense.