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The Democratic Party Cannot Afford To Be Gun Shy About Legalization

November 7th 2108 photo/Istock/Moussa81
By Roger Malespin

We like to think of the democratic party as the ones who will save the country from the archaic, foolish anti marijuana laws that have long plagued our country, but closer inspection shows this might not be the case. Throughout the country, there are democratic candidates who perhaps should be embracing marijuana reform, but are instead giving non answers at best when asked about it. Worse, the republican party will have no problem hijacking the wave of support among the population if the Dems allow it.

One example we can look at is in New York. The battle for the 19th district is between incumbent republican John Faso and challenger Antonio Delgado. Delgado worked at a record label as a hip-hop music producer and artist for a short time, something that was capitalized on by the Faso campaign by calling him a ‘pro-drugs’ (a thinly veiled racist dig at the hip hop community). Rather than strongly refute this, Delgado has backed off and doesn’t even mention marijuana in his campaign anymore.

 The problem here is not that Delgado isn’t emphasizing his marijuana stance per say, but that he’s backing off of it in fear of being labeled pro drugs. The American consciousness has moved past the reefer madness propaganda of decades past, and younger, up and coming candidates should know that. Responding to such charges diplomatically isn’t difficult and would paint Faso as the out of touch, textbook politician that he is.

 Another example is in Wisconsin, where the battle is less about personal freedoms than it is about economy. Democratic challenger Tony Evers is going up against the polarizing incumbent governor, Scott Walker. Evers champions many progressive causes, especially free college education, but lacks the bombast persona and speaking ability of a Bernie Sanders. In Wisconsin, the middle class is suffering and the debate about marijuana is focused on what a legal market could do for the economy to help pay for the badly needed social programs. Evers, like Delgado, is noticeably quiet about his pro marijuana stance.

 So how can the republicans hijack the sentiment of legalization? One word - veterans. The opioid crisis has hit many demographics but veterans are an especially vulnerable group. They’ve long been a group that supports and is exploited by the right wing politicians in this country. If you don’t think so, explain why they’re all for ‘supporting the troops’ in war but abandon them when they get back home. Nonetheless, several republicans have rightly cited the need for veterans to get the help they need with medical marijuana. This is a point that both partisans and pro marijuana voters of any stripe can get behind, and the democrats are simply allowing it to happen by not touting all the progress made in legalization throughout the country that was mostly their work, not the republicans.
We’re in a very contentious political climate this election cycle, perhaps more contentious than things have been in decades. This is not the time for subtlety or backtracking on stances. Inspired by Trump’s success as a firebrand, GOP candidates are not at all shy about mimicking his tactics to win. The dems do not have to embrace his rhetoric, but certainly can’t define ‘taking the high road’ as silence. The majority of progress made to make marijuana legal in this country was initiated and pushed through by democrats, and they need to own it and stop being afraid.