The presidential election draws ever nearer in this strangest of all realities. It gnashes its teeth and drools, impatiently stalking our social media and avoiding eye contact.
For the last four years, cannabis legalization has become a serious topic in American politics. That’s quite a feat considering the attitudes toward it just a decade ago—when President Barack Obama could get an audience of educated people to slap their knees at an earnest question about whether legalizing marijuana would improve the economy. “I don’t know what this says about the online audience,” he chuckled. “The answer is no. I don’t think that is a good strategy to grow our economy.” He’d probably be less likely to laugh about it now.
It was even a serious talking point during the Democratic presidential debates—so long ago in 2019—when Tulsi Gabbard stole the spotlight to attack Kamala Harris over her terrible history as a prosecutor in California.
“Senator Harris says she's proud of her record as a prosecutor and that she'll be a prosecutor president,” Gabbard said. “But I'm deeply concerned about this record. There are too many examples to cite, but she put over 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations and then laughed about it when she was asked if she ever smoked marijuana.”
It was a moment many will never forget. The internet thundered with memes. And through the clamor, the voice of the majority could be heard saying, “Enough is enough!”
Then COVID-19 showed up. And then Antifa lit the world on fire. Now no one really cares about cannabis legalization. They all have way bigger fish to fry.
Case in point: During the recent vice presidential debate, the aforementioned Harris once again made the promise that if elected, Joe Biden will decriminalize cannabis and expunge the criminal records of minor cannabis offenders. This is a far cry from what the majority of Democrats actually want (69 percent of Dems are in favor of legalizing recreational cannabis for adults over 21 according to a Data for Progress poll), and it was a huge point of contention between progressives and mainstream Democrat politicians. But you’ll hear little outcry over it, and most lefties are still going to vote for Biden.
Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence (along with his perfect hair and the fly that won a nation) failed to even make mention of marijuana. Although in a moment reeking of déjà vu, he did attack Harris over her terrible history as a prosecutor in California.
“When you were DA in San Francisco—when you left office—African Americans were 19 times more likely to be prosecuted for minor drug offenses than whites and Hispanics,” he said. “When you were attorney general of California, you increased the disproportionate incarceration of blacks in California. You did nothing on criminal justice reform in California.”
But he never mentions cannabis. And he clearly doesn’t care for the drug, as he’s said time and time again. Most recently, he complained that one of the Democratic versions of the coronavirus relief bill included language that would protect financial institutions from prosecution if they did business with cannabis companies.
“I heard the other day the bill mentions marijuana more than it mentions jobs,” Pence said during an interview on “Lou Dobbs Tonight.” “The American people don't want some pork-barrel bill coming out of the Congress when we've got real needs for working-class families.”
He might have had a point about its inclusion in a coronavirus relief bill, but the SAFE Banking Act is far from a “pork-barrel bill.”
But the current administration has kept its paws off of cannabis for the entirety of Trump’s term, and it seems unlikely that it will suddenly change course on a divisive issue that has such massive bipartisan support. The president is clearly a populist. The man can’t even bring himself to speak against white supremacy for fear of it losing the KKK vote.
So we’re in a shoddy boat with a dead motor and no paddles. Someone notices a very small hole—say, the size of your thumb—but nobody else seems too concerned. It seems like voting Democrat will at least open up the possibility of freeing some human beings who have been caged by the War on Some Drugs. Of course Obama promised to close down the detention center at Guantanamo Bay and release many of the political prisoners held there way way back in 2009, and we’re still waiting on that one.
Navajo Nation leaders are still struggling to shut down an illegal hemp operation on tribal grounds. Now they’ve gone and redefined the meaning of “marijuana” in an unexpected political gambit presumably aimed at the farm’s owner.
In recent weeks a legal battle between the Navajo Nation and tribal member Dineh Benally has been coming to a head as authorities have moved to interrupt production at illegal hemp farms operated by Benally. Hemp is illegal on Navajo Nation lands, but there are currently no penalties associated with the activity and no legal avenue for police to enter the farms.
A judge recently passed a temporary restraining order that barred Benally from continuing operations at the farms, but the Navajo Nation Council has taken steps to ensure the farms never reopen.
According to KRQE the council passed a resolution that officially redefines “marijuana” as all parts of the cannabis plant (including hemp, one would assume).
This could mean that authorities will be able to enter and inspect Benally’s farms at any time. But it also means that the doors are now closed to hemp cultivation on tribal lands.
“We understand the economic potential of hemp production,” said Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer in a press release, “but it must be done safely and in accordance with the laws of the Navajo Nation. Resolution CS-76-20 provides a future of economic development with industrial hemp production on terms approved by our lawmakers and the Office of the President and Vice President.”
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