As Buttigieg Visits a Dispensary, How Far Will 2020 Dems Go for Cannabis Justice?

    On October 23, Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, visited a cannabis dispensary in Las Vegas. He used the opportunity to learn more about Nevada’s legalization model, and to elaborate on his drug policy positions⁠—including plans to legalize cannabis federally and decriminalize other drug possession.

    Marijuana Moment reported that Buttigieg toured the Top Notch THC dispensary, “owned and operated Kema Ogden, the state’s first female minority owner of a cannabis dispensary.” Afterwards, he applauded the dispensary’s cleanliness and quality of service. “It almost reminds you of an Apple store, how tidy and carefully it’s laid out, knowledgeable employees and a legitimate business that still struggles because federal policy hasn’t caught up,” he said. “It was very helpful to be able to see it myself.”

    He declined to purchase cannabis during his visit, while noting that he has used it a “handful of times a long time ago.”

    In a sign of changing times, Mayor Pete is not the only 2020 candidate to have visited a cannabis dispensary. In September, former Texas Representative Beto O’Rourke visited Blunts + Moore, a dispensary in Oakland, California. That business is notable for being the first to open through Oakland’s cannabis social equity program, which is intended to create opportunities for people targeted by the War on Drugs.

    O’Rourke elaborated on his own cannabis legalization proposal during his visit. It includes reparations for people who served jail time for non-violent cannabis offenses, to the amount of $1,200 per month behind bars.

    “We need to not only end the prohibition on marijuana, but also repair the damage done to the communities of color disproportionately locked up in our criminal justice system or locked out of opportunity because of the War on Drugs,” ​he said.​ “These inequalities have compounded for decades, as predominantly white communities have been given the vast majority of lucrative business opportunities, while communities of color still face over-policing and criminalization.”

    Nearly all of the Democratic 2020 Presidential candidates support cannabis legalization. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced the Marijuana Justice Act in the US Senate, which would legalize cannabis federally and contains record expungement provisions. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) are all co-sponsors on the legislation.

    Harris, for her part, has also introduced the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which includes cannabis social equity provisions like investing tax revenues and other resources in communities harmed by the War on Drugs.

    “We need to start regulating marijuana, and expunge marijuana convictions from the records of millions of Americans so they can get on with their lives,” Harris said in a press statement. “As marijuana becomes legal across the country, we must make sure everyone—especially communities of color that have been disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs—has a real opportunity to participate in this growing industry.”

    Vice President Joe Biden, however, has not yet thrown his support behind legalization. He favors more incremental changes like decriminalization and rescheduling marijuana to Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act to encourage more medical research.

    But whoever ends up winning the 2020 presidential election—even if their name is Donald Trump—should know they have a popular mandate for legalization. A Gallup poll released the same day as Mayor Pete’s dispensary visit showed that 66 percent of Americans support legalizing cannabis.

    “There are essentially no meaningful differences in support for legal marijuana by gender, education, income, region and urban/suburban/rural residence—between 60 percent and 70 percent of subgroup members within those categories favor legalization,” said Gallup analyst Jeffrey Jones.

    With presidential candidates now considering cannabis businesses a standard campaign stop, and two in three Americans in favor, what are we waiting for?


    Image courtesy of Pete Buttigieg via Facebook.

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