The Mike Pence-Kamala Harris vice-presidential debate didn’t have the same fireworks as the Trump-Biden debate, but there was plenty of interruptions, dodging of questions, and an iconic fly that took over the internet. Also, the best federal cannabis policy ever proposed by a presidential ticket was mentioned. While the position doesn’t go far enough, it was big step in the right direction and was a historic development for the cannabis community, when Kamala Harris made the first mention of cannabis during the two debates that have been held thus far, as Reason reported:
“We will decriminalize marijuana and we will expunge the records of those who have been convicted of marijuana,” she said.
The position is the strongest any major-party candidate for president or vice president has taken to date on the issue in such a prominent venue.
Though former Vice President Biden has historically resisted calls to ease up on drug enforcement, he seems to have turned on the issue this election cycle, telling supporters in May 2019 that “nobody should be in jail for smoking marijuana.” Most recently, Harris reiterated the position in a virtual town hall on September 14, assuring viewers that a Biden-Harris administration would “end incarceration for drug use alone.” Campaign aide Symone Sanders said the same in an August 29 interview on MSNBC.
While it is understandably difficult to trust virtually any politician, especially those that made their careers arresting and jailing people for cannabis, there is reason to be optimistic this time around. For starters, politicians, regardless of their past positions, want to win and a strong majority of voters now support ending federal prohibition. Further, Kamala Harris is a sponsor of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE) that will ultimately legalize cannabis nationwide. Regardless of where you stand on the better presidential ticket, it is clear that the cannabis community has made serious progress on the national stage.
Unfortunately, the coronavirus still dominates the daily news in the United States, especially with President Trump and a lot of his inner circle in quarantine or isolation following the outbreak of a COVID cluster at the White House. Regardless of anyone’s feelings about our current political and cultural circumstances regarding the pandemic, it is clear that our society will be dealing with the health and economic ramifications of the coronavirus for some time.
Of course, the impact of COVID was front at center at the first presidential debate and will be featured heavily at the first vice-presidential debate tonight, it is always disappointing when cannabis is ignored by our national politicians. While some may argue that there are much bigger issues concerning our nation than cannabis, the truth of the matter is that cannabis impacts so many of our lives, even those that don’t utilize it for medicine or recreation.
Cannabis businesses have been one of the few bright spots during our economic recession and many more people are turning towards medical cannabis for relief. Additionally, there are still hundreds of thousands of people still getting arrested across the nation, disproportionately communities of color, as we needlessly ruin lives and set taxpayer dollars on fire. Not to mention the fact that there are important statewide legalization measures on the 2020 ballot.
With Kamala Harris, a co-sponsor of the MORE Act, a federal legalization bill on the Democratic ticket, hopefully there will be a question about cannabis at the VP debate, but I won’t hold my breath. Also, sure to be ignored, as it continues to be ignored by mainstream news outlets, are the medicinal benefits of cannabis medicines, even those that could show promise combatting the coronavirus.
Small cannabis businesses like Kind Leaf are economic engines for communities across our nation. They are creating jobs during an economic crisis, providing medicine during a pandemic, and generating revenue for much-needed social services, while being denied access to banking and normal tax deductions. It’s time that politicians reflect the will of the people and give the cannabis community the attention and respect that it deserves.
As cannabis legalization has moved more mainstream, we have seen more and more progress at the federal level, but much-needed reforms are moving entirely too slowly, especially for those operating businesses that could use normal banking services and tax policies. With support across demographics, it can be extremely frustrating to the cannabis community and industry to see bills stalled, such as the SAFE Banking Act that managed to pass the House, but still awaits a Senate hearing. It appears that you can add Trump Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to the list of those growing irritated with Congress as he told congressional members how the lack of banking services is impacting the IRS, as The Hill reported:
“This creates significant problems for the IRS,” Mnuchin said at a hearing held by a House Appropriations subcommittee.
Many states have legalized medical or recreational marijuana. However, banks have been hesitant to serve marijuana businesses even in states that have legalized use of the drug because they want to avoid violating federal anti-money laundering and illicit finance laws. That has led to cash-only marijuana businesses.
Without taking a stance on how he thinks the federal-state conflict concerning marijuana should be resolved, Mnuchin urged Congress “to deal with this one way or another.”
As The Hill noted, Idaho Republican Senator Mike Crapo is an obstacle to passing sensible cannabis banking legislation in the Senate. Spread the word and make sure that he hears from plenty of people, especially his constituents.
Carl Sagan is one of my all-time heroes. He was a giant of the scientific community and a great thinker that dared us to dream, to push the limits of our knowledge. I was so bummed when he passed away in 1996, but even in death he enriched lives, as his use of cannabis became revealed. He became the ultimate trump card when someone told you that using cannabis made you stupid, we could always point to Carl Sagan as proof that they were just spouting Reefer Madness nonsense.
You never know when Reefer Madness nonsense is going to rear its ugly head. The myth that cannabis lowers your IQ made it into the news recently, coming to light during a totally unrelated political debate that I don’t need to delve into here. Of course, leading cannabis law reform advocates were quick to counter the madness as Marijuana Moment reported:
“Trump’s remarks simply reveal that he is out of touch, given that the majority of Americans support marijuana legalization for both medical and adult use,” Sheila Vakharia of the Drug Policy Alliance said. “This type of rhetoric is fear-mongering and inflammatory.”
“The evidence is clear from the dozens of states that have legalized medical and adult use—the sky isn’t falling and the kids are alright,” she said.
Erik Altieri, executive director of NORML, said that “what truly causes a decline in an individual’s intelligence is adhering to false Reefer Madness rhetoric that flies in the face of available science.”
If you hear someone spouting the Reefer Madness nonsense about cannabis making you dumb, the shorthand response can always be to refer to Carl Sagan, but if you really want to honor Sagan, you can point to the science. The most comprehensive study to date found no link between cannabis use and a decrease in IQ, as ScienceAlert covered:
The largest ever longitudinal twin study involving more than 3,000 adolescents from around the world has found little evidence to suggest that adolescent marijuana use has a direct effect on intellectual decline.
The study analysed the results of two separate studies that traced the lives of American adolescent twins over a decade, and both found that teens who engaged in regular marijuana use lost no more IQ points over time than their non-using twin siblings.
It’s telling that Reefer Madness prohibitionists have to rely upon lies and propaganda to bolster their position that cannabis should remain illegal. Like Carl Sagan, we just have to seek out and promote the truth. In the end, the truth shall set us all free.