Campaign platforms these days highlight marijuana as a key point of the candidates that are running for office. Whether candidates are opponents or proponents of decriminalizing, legalizing medical marijuana or even legalizing recreational marijuana, cannabis is a very hot topic. Do you believe that marijuana is an important enough of a topic to be a top priority for government officials?
In a sign of marijuana law reform’s growing political traction, major candidates in gubernatorial elections in states across the country are making legalization, decriminalization and medical cannabis centerpieces of their campaigns.
This is especially true of Democratic candidates, perhaps a reflection of the fact that polls show that their party’s voters are generally much more likely to support marijuana policy reform than are Republicans. But some GOP contenders are also calling for changes to cannabis laws.
There are two gubernatorial races taking place in 2017 — in New Jersey and Virginia — and the Democratic nominees in both have repeatedly pushed for big marijuana law reforms, with their Republican opponents expressing openness to more moderate changes.
And, candidates in several of the many 2018 governors races are already talking about cannabis.
First, a look at the two 2017 races:
In New Jersey, Democratic nominee Phil Murphy, a former U.S. ambassador to Germany, called for legalization during his primary election night victory speech in June.
“The criminalization of marijuana has only served to clog our courts and cloud people’s futures, so we will legalize marijuana,” he said. “And while there are financial benefits, this is overwhelmingly about doing what is right and just.” He also pledged in the speech to end mass incarceration and “eliminate prisons for profit.”
Murphy’s campaign website says that if elected he will “legalize marijuana so police can focus resources on violent crimes.”
Murphy’s Republican opponent, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadago, doesn’t support legalization, but has called for decriminalization and expansion of the state’s existing medical cannabis program.
“I have personal experience about what exactly happens to somebody who drives while they’re high, which is why I would oppose legalization of marijuana,” she said during a primary debate earlier this year.
“Having said that, however, I completely agree that we should decriminalize it,” she continued. “Because no one should suffer because of the color of their skin or because of their social background or because they were picked up with a small quantity.”
The lieutenant governor also suggested she supports adding new qualifying conditions for medical cannabis. Saying she wants to “streamline” the program, Guadago argued the state should “make it easier for people that have doctors’ notes to get it.”
Current Gov. Chris Christie (R) is one of the nation’s most ardent marijuana law reform opponents in elected office. During the course of his failed 2016 Republican presidential primary campaign he repeatedly pledged that if elected he would vigorously enforce federal prohibition in legalization states, and has been seen as perhaps the sole roadblock to further reform in the Garden State.
State legislative leaders in New Jersey have indicated that they are ready to pass a marijuana legalization bill shortly after a new governor is seated early next year.
In Virginia, Democratic nominee Ralph Northam, currently the state’s lieutenant governor, has made a push to decriminalize cannabis a central part of his campaign messaging, often putting the issue in stark racial justice terms.
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