(Philadelphia PA) — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ expansive views on cannabis reform made him my first choice to be our next president. But Bernie didn’t prevail in the Democratic primary against Hillary Clinton. So he won’t appear on tomorrow’s ballot. Instead we get a choice between Clinton, Donald Trump, Gary Johnson, and Jill Stein.
What’s a cannabis voter to do?
Vote Hillary. Seriously. I’ve wrestled with the choices, and that’s where I’ve ended up. Firmly.
Hillary Clinton is the superior choice if you care about medical marijuana. There’ll be no talk here about building walls. I won’t grab anyone’s pussy. No Benghazi innuendo. Just a singular focus on who’s best positioned to protect and expand the liberties of medical cannabis users in the United States over these next four years.
Here are six reasons why.
1) The Chris Christie Factor
If Hillary becomes President, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie won’t be anywhere near the levers of power. That’s a really big deal. Listen: I cover New Jersey politics for a living. With the possible exception of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (who happens to be Trump’s running mate), Chris Christie is the most anti-cannabis governor in America. Christie actually thinks the Federal Government should go after medical cannabis users in states where it’s legal.
“There is no bigger anti-drug person than me,” Christie has said. “I will never decriminalize marijuana in this state, I will never legalize marijuana in this state, for every minute that I’m governor. It’s a gateway drug, it’s a bad thing, and we shouldn’t be doing it. And we shouldn’t be sending messages to our kids and young adults saying it’s OK. It’s not.”
Back in July 2015, when his presidential campaign was still viable, Christie vowed to shut down the entire cannabis industry in all legal states. “If you’re getting high in Colorado today, enjoy it,” he said. “As of January 2017, I will enforce the federal laws.”
When those presidential ambitions cratered in New Hampshire (where Christie walked away with the 6th place ribbon), the New Jersey governor boarded the Trump train. Much to his own horror.
As Trevor Noah and The Daily Show put it:
— The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow) March 2, 2016
Trump rewarded Christie’s sad fealty with the chance to lead Tump’s presidential transition team. Christie was instrumental in coordinating Trump’s disastrous debate preparations. According to recent media reports, Christie was this close to being Trump’s VP pick. He didn’t win that prize, but speculation about Trump rewarding Christie with the attorney general post has been rampant.
Trump himself thinks it’s a great idea. The Donald believes Christie “would make a great attorney general.”
As a medical marijuana patient in New Jersey, I’m acutely familiar with Christie’s mean-spirited, incompetent approach to drug reform. And that Trump/Christie approach to drug reform, and cannabis prohibition, is the last thing American wants or needs right now.
A vote for Trump would bring four years of the same old Republican approach to cannabis—a revival of the failed War on Drugs. A vote for Hillary Clinton at least ensures we’ll consolidate the tentative progress made under President Obama.
2) Obamacare Matters.
Any patient who qualifies for medical cannabis in any state where it’s legal has a pre-existing health condition. They all—we all—need access to healthcare options like the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), which guarantees coverage for anyone with a pre-existing condition.
Donald Trump has repeatedly vowed to dismantle Obamacare. His strident Obamacare attacks mask the fact that Trump has no alternative plan for the 20 million Americans, many with pre-existing conditions, who’d be left with no health insurance without Obamacare. Trump’s not trying to be constructive when he brings up Obamacare. He seeks to inflame and provoke. He does it well. But his incendiary rhetoric won’t protect the healthcare needs of America’s medical marijuana patients.
Hillary Clinton knows Obamacare isn’t perfect. She has vowed to fix it. And her decades-long career in politics suggests she has the experience and skill to do just that.
3) Democrats have a far better cannabis track record.
On some issues, Democrats and Republicans seem indistinguishable. Wall Street reform comes to mind. On cannabis? Not so. Democrats have a dramatic and demonstrably superior track record. Most recently, the Democratic party voted to support a “reasoned pathway to future legalization” as a major part of its party platform. The Republicans voted to oppose it.
In an era of hyper‐partisanship, medical cannabis reform is something many voters from both parties are supporting. Republican voters generally support reform. Republican leaders and lawmakers don’t. Sure, a few rank-and-file House Republicans lean in the right direction on this one. (See: Rep. Dana Rohrabacher.) But House GOP leadership won’t budge from its retrograde Just Say No stance.
Until GOP lawmakers listen to what a majority of voters are demanding, the Democratic party represents the most viable path to full medical cannabis liberty.
Democratic Congressman Earl Blumenauer is the most pro-pot member of Congress and he agrees.
“This Congress we’ve seen increased bipartisan support for removing barriers to medical marijuana,” Blumenauer told Leafly. “Yet, broadly supported bipartisan legislation still fails to receive hearings or make it into final appropriations bills. Though my Veterans’ Equal Access Amendment passed the House with the support of 57 (of 246) Republicans, it was stripped from the final appropriations package (by Republican leadership.) We need a better Congress if we want real progress on important issues such as marijuana banking or veterans’ access to marijuana.”
A President Trump would embolden the top brass of the GOP caucus to make stupid moves like deny cannabis to veterans with PTSD.
4) Look to the Veepstakes
Hillary Clinton tapped Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine as her running mate. Donald Trump choose Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.
Look, Tim Kaine isn’t much to write home about. But he received a decent “C+” on NORML’s Congressional report card. While he remains overly circumspect about legalization on a federal level, Tim Kaine will respect state marijuana laws.
“I actually kind of like this notion of the states as labs and they can experiment [with legalizing marijuana] and we can see what happens,” he said.
Mike Pence’s cannabis track record, by contrast, is abysmal. Trump’s running mate peddles “reefer madness” silliness, with hideous consequences.
His state is a holdout in the war on marijuana. In Indiana,
draconian drug laws still reign supreme. Possession of any amount of cannabis is punishable by a $1,000 fine and 180 days in jail. Attempts to bring Indiana’s drug laws into the 21st century have failed, due in part to Pence’s belief that cannabis is a gateway drug.
Either Tim Kaine or Mike Pence will become the next vice president.
Hillary made a decent, acceptable selection. Trump chose a right-wing zealot who wants to lock up sick Hoosiers who use medical cannabis.
5) This is an election, not a protest.
While I take neither of them seriously as presidential candidates, there’s something to like about Gary Johnson and Jill Stein. Their forward-thinking views on cannabis, for starters. But I won’t vote for them for the same reason I’m not voting for my cat: They don’t stand a chance in hell. A vote for either Gary Johnson or Jill Stein only increases the odds one that of them might play spoiler.
The impulse to register a protest vote is a compelling one, especially during this election cycle. But this isn’t about your or my right to cast a protest vote. This is about your and my right to medicate legally. And Hillary will do the best job protecting those liberties. It’s reasonable to anticipate that a President Clinton would continue to unwind the War on Drugs, possibly even accelerating the gains made under President Obama. It won’t happen as quickly as I’d like, but it’s going to happen.
6) Bernie says so.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and his supporters are some of the most pro-cannabis people you’ll ever meet. He’s the only member of the United States Senate with an “A+” score on NORML’s congressional report card. He’s truly peerless on our issues. Bernie knows the War on Drugs was a failure and he recognizes the immense potential of medical cannabis to alleviate suffering.
And on the issue of Hillary v. Trump, Bernie is unequivocal: He’ll be stumping for Clinton through election day.
If it’s good enough for Bernie, it’s good enough for me.
Conclusion: Hillary Clinton is not where she needs to be on drug reform. But she, along with her Tim Kaine and the Democratic Party, are the far better choice for anyone who cares about cannabis reform. Many medical cannabis users find themselves on the margins of society and the law. They rely on social services programs that Donald Trump mocks. By elevating ardent anti-cannabis yes-men like Chris Christie and Mike Pence, Trump makes it clear that he’s more than willing to put the power of the Presidency behind their radical prohibitionist agenda.
A vote for Hillary in this election, on Tuesday, is a vote for cannabis reform and the expansion of social and legal progress. That’s why #ImWithHer.