Legalize it, now
This sort of hits on something I talk about a fair amount with my politically minded friends. Democrats have terrible brand strategy in general and often, the things they think are their strengths are actually serious vulnerabilities. It would be a good idea for the democrats to advocate for something that is broadly popular and at the same time get to use words people like, such as “freedom” instead of “control”.
Something that drove me (and other volunteers) absolutely bananas during this year's campaign:
I was textbanking with an organization that had partnered with the North Carolina Democrats to flip state legislative seats, and we talked to SO. MANY. VOTERS. whose first question was "Does she support legal weed?" Not a single one of the statehouse candidates we texted for was on record for legalization, so we had to go to the default response: "I don't have her position on that issue at my fingertips, but I'll let the campaign know about your concerns." Absolutely an unforced error.
One more point that might be useful for some SB subscribers: legal marijuana is among the few issues where progressives can contribute to social progress in deep-red states. Check out this amazing Politico piece on Oklahoma, whose medical-marijuana regime is so liberal that it's a recreational-marijuana state for all practical purposes--and where the market isn't hopelessly overregulated, as it is in some blue states:
So if I were one of the twenty-three progressive Democrats who live in Idaho (or wherever) I think I might spend some time partnering with conservatives and libertarians to reform the state's pot laws. You'd want to focus on ballot initiatives rather than lobbying, which is how the progress in Oklahoma was achieved.
I was really struck by your comments recently on Twitter on how it's counterproductive that progressives have started framing broadly popular policy positions (minimum wage increase, student loan forgiveness) as racial justice issues. Wondering if you think this applies here as well? I'm personally kind of apathetic to the issue of marijuana legalization, but do think the racial disparities argument is the most convincing case for it, and could drive some of the "greater passion" that you describe as being needed in this piece. But I'm trying to think outside the educated-progressive-groupthink-bubble, so questioning if this is indeed the case.
The libertarian in me agrees.
The father in me doesn’t.
10-years ago I was pretty pro-legalize, but I’ve since come to believe that marijuana is dangerous in a much more insidious way. It robs many people of motivation, and more and more I’ve seen it become a crutch. People smoking every day.
I have had two kids who have had their life affected by marijuana use.
Having said all that, keeping it illegal is pretty dumb considering how widespread it is.
I’d like to see it legalized and have the THC regulated. When I tried weed after I retired from the Military, I was knocked on my ass.
My friends and I would smoke occasionally in HS in the 80s, but it would take a few joints. Now days, a few hits will fuck you up.
Personally, I don’t enjoy it. Then again I barely drink anymore. I’d much rather spend my time doing shit. Working on my 65 Chevy C20. 4-wheeling. Doing stuff around the house. Man... I should be a boomer.
It is weird that Idaho makes it illegal. The drive-through dispensaries across the border are full of Idaho License plates.
Making it legal would put my step-daughters dealing boyfriend out of a job though, and I don’t like the guy.
Not getting on the legalize train was a great fuck-up by Trump.
He could of gone full in and probably won the election despite being an idiot.
I have been very upset with the state of CT not moving quickly on legalizing recreational marijuana. It is hugely popular, and the state desperately needs new tax revenue. Imagine the lines at dispensaries with people from NY taking the Metro North to Stamford and spending a couple hundred bucks each!
Now NJ will likely beat us to the punch, and CT will follow a year or two later and lose the first-mover advantage.
The new gov (Ned Lamont) has not given a clear rationale for not moving on this. I think people over 45 or so just have this "War on Drugs" hangover and see cannabis as distasteful or worse than it is.
Another interesting angle that gets to Matt's earlier point about needlessly racializing popular issues: in NJ and other states there has been some holdup over arguments about whether communities harmed by drug laws should get special dispensation on licenses, tax revenue etc. This is another issue where Black people are disproportionately harmed but whites get swept up in bogus cannabis charges as well. I have known White people lose jobs, have records, etc due to cannabis. Legalization would broadly help everyone
I think I see the problem. What you need are legalization activists who don't actually use marijuana.
> Gallup’s numbers show that 15 or 20 years ago when folks like Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, and Chuck Schumer were already important politicians this was a pretty marginal cause. And the marginalness of marijuana legalization is doubled by the fact that the people most likely to support it (young people and people who get high a lot) are low propensity voters.
I agree with this but also find it to be rather bleak. The only potentially successful progressive strategy is cohort replacement. Yikes.
Either way, the "no weed" cohort is being replaced and NJ can attest to how much money you can raise on a popular measure like legal weed. https://apnews.com/article/virus-outbreak-new-jersey-recreational-marijuana-marijuana-elections-3ee4af1fa5317120924aea371ed57234 and https://www.nj.com/marijuana/2020/10/groups-raise-21-million-to-sway-your-vote-on-nj-legal-weed-ballot-question.html
What are currently the most effective activists groups on this issue? Want to vote with some dollars here.
What are your thoughts on how third-parties focused on marijuana legalization factor into this? For example, in MN, Democrats fell short of a trifecta in part because of strong performance by the two legal marijuana parties that got on the ballot in key state Senate districts, and they also broke 5% in the Senate race. Do you think that's a reason for more outside of elections activism around the issue or for less?
Minnesota is an interesting example. Walz had a very progressive stance on weed when he ran for governor, but he didn't emphasize it much, presumably to support his moderate bona fides? Then the two weed-based third parties reached major party status, which makes it much easier for Republicans to recruit/finance spoiler candidates in tight races.
In this situation, I'm not sure how activist energy should best be used. Do you encourage the DFL to spotlight/emphasize/run on their (already very good) weed policy? That seems like good politics to me, but it's hard to see it changing the policies on the ground, where republicans hold the state senate. Do activists try to get moderate republican senators to flip on this issue? I'm sure there are republican held districts where this policy is popular, but I don't really see republicans doing the right thing just because activists are yelling at them. If they break on this issue and legalization happens, they probably won't be able to benefit from spoiler candidates on this issue anymore.
I liked it when Bernie tried to use banks as the thin end of the wedge & said things like "the business model of Wall Street is fraud." Warren often took a similar line although neither of them focused on it in the most recent election. Finance people are very unpopular for good reason and Democrats should certainly demonize them as much as gun owners or the NRA.
Bank bashing & white collar crime enforcement seem like a good, popular areas for "left" Dems to differentiate themselves nationally from centrists, although they need good, specific regulatory & enforcement policies to back up their stance. I take your point that anti-plutocrat rhetoric from lefty congresspeople often leads to personnel fights w/o clear policy stakes.
Good enough column, and I'd be pretty happy if weed were legalized (and I think it ties back into the "make blue states great again" idea that the Dems in blue states should be bolder) but tbh I was looking forward to a column about climate activism and why stuff like Sunrise are dumb and bad and how to actually get climate stuff passed.
I know this post mentions that the technical details are well understood, but I do think there's still some tension between legalization as harm reduction and legalization as a revenue source. Exploring that tension could be important when crafting local messages. Personally, I am very pro-legalization but I still think it's gross that stores will send "We Miss You!" sales pitches to people who are trying to quit. Of course, this is certainly not unique to pot.
So, given the recent twitter-fight, this article is as much about how shouty activism is good for weed as it's about how shouty activism, in contrast, is bad for climate change. And I think, if you boil it down, the difference between the two issues is polarization. Weed's popular among both sides of the aisle; believing that climate change is real is only popular on one.
But there's a root cause for this! It's that there is a sustained misinformation campaign going on about the climate. So, maybe I could be convinced that telling the Sunrise Movement to shut up is a good idea. (That's a reductive way of putting Matt's argument, I know, but I gotta go fast!) But, I would want to offer the shouty activists something in exchange. And what I would offer in exchange is a real plan for using the powers of the FTC/SEC/Every other C to hold oil firms and others accountable for spreading misinformation. Now, others may raise First Amendment concerns over this tactic. But just as there is no 1st amendment right to yell "Fire" in a crowded theater, there is no right to yell "Fires Aren't Real" in a burning theater either.
The issue with marijuana to me seems to be not dissimilar to “common sense” gun control - a lot of people support the policy but very few seem motivated to vote based on it. I suppose targeted activism could change that. To be honest though, full legalization doesn’t feel like the kind of issue that’s going to inspire the fervency needed for people to take to the streets.
What evidence do you have that "people who get high a lot" are low propensity voters?
First, I agree with this argument, and believe strongly that marijuana should be legalized for many reasons including racial justice.
You write, though, "It’s of course possible that Brett Kavanaugh and company will issue some crazy legal ruling if the Biden administration tries", presumably referring to the non-delegation principle. I would love to see that principle applied more often and more broadly, as I think it would ultimately be good for democracy.
Congress has effectively abdicated its responsibility to pass laws by ceding authority to Executive Branch agencies. This has resulted in Congress being sidelined and filled with people who see no need to actually DO anything, while further increasing the authority of one person (the President). If Congress (the one branch that is more directly accountable to the people) were not allowed to abdicate its responsibilities, then I believe they would become more effective, less partisan and more responsive to majority opinions.