All the states in the U.S. which have legalized cannabis have at least one thing in common: The voters did it, at the ballot box. Recreational cannabis has never been effectively legalized by a single state Legislature; in the one case where it almost happened – Vermont – the governor vetoed a legalization bill after it had been approved by lawmakers. Why is it so challenging for lawmakers to do their jobs?
What, exactly, is the hold up?
We are told that legislators at the state level, and federal members of Congress, are there to represent us. And for at least four years now, a majority of Americans have wanted marijuana legalized. Sixty percent of voters support ending pot prohibition, according to Gallup.
Lawmakers in the United States, both at the state and federal levels, have been unwilling to change the law to effectively represent a majority of their constituents. What on Earth would make lawmakers unable to summon up the cojones to do what voters want them to do?
Many politicians are shockingly spineless. They are convinced, based on 20th Century morés, that weed legalization is a fatal third rail of politics, and they are unwilling to stake their careers on it.
Looking at the past, you can see where they’re coming from. Politicians who have stuck up for weed have been attacked as being “soft on crime” or “not protecting our children.” That is, of course, complete nonsense. And the key word is “the past,” because Americans are finally emerging from the long national nightmare of reefer madness and cannabis prohibition.
Lawmakers for sale
That brings us to another huge reason that politicians aren’t following the will of the people. Even those who realize a majority of their constituents support legalization need campaign contributions in today’s partisan environment of sound bites and attack ads.
And it should come as no surprise that deep-pocketed corporations – you like, like Big Pharma and the law enforcement and corrections industries – have a much larger impact on campaign contributions that do individual citizens.
You can rest assure that multinational pharmaceutical companies whose bottom lines depend upon steady sales of harsh painkillers and antidepressants aren’t thrilled with the fact that cannabis can replace those products, or at the very least reduce their necessity for many patients.
And law enforcement and corrections unions are keenly aware that any diminution of police powers to persecute potheads could mean reduced budgets (look into federal “drug fighting” grants sometimes) and thus layoffs.
So does it sound, sadly enough, as if many lawmakers – Congress included (hell, especially Congress) – are working for their biggest campaign contributors rather than the voters they are supposed to represent? You would be accurate in saying that, yes.
The good news is, there are a couple of ways you can fight back. The first is to simply refuse to vote for any politician who doesn’t support the cannabis community, ever again. And the second is to continue to support campaign finance reform.
Our politicians are currently for sale to the highest bidder. It’s time we remind them, once again, who their real bosses are. Power to the People!