Things That Matter

The ‘War On Drugs’ Is Changing As Voters Across The Country Continue To Legalize Marijuana

Across the United States, weed has become so normalized it’s barely even cool anymore. Many blame the likes of Martha Stewart and Elon Musk for taking the edge off the marijuana industry but it was a process long in the making.

Long gone are the days of dirty bongs, replaced by high-tech vaporizers and edibles ranging from extravagant chocolate candies to curated, catered dining experiences. Brewers are dabbling in non-alcoholic THC beers, and the country’s first-ever weed restaurant, where you can smoke and dine in public without feeling anything more than your regular dose of paranoia, opened in West Hollywood. 

Obviously, legalization has a lot to do with that. In the U.S., recreational marijuana legalization is seeing victories on a state-by-state basis. In the 2016 election, which was bad for most reasons but good for this one, four states got on board, raising the total to eight states to legalize since Colorado kicked off the movement in 2012. 

Now, we can add at least four more states to that ever growing list of places in the U.S. where adults over 21 can legally use marijuana.

Legal weed got a major boost on Election Day as at least three states voted to approve its use.

With Election Day votes, some 16 million Americans have been added to the list of places where adults can legally use marijuana. Voters in New Jersey, Arizona, South Dakota and Montana on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved ballot measures on weed.

They will join about 93 million Americans who live in states that already have legalized weed, meaning about 1 in 3 Americans now live in states where marijuana is legal for anyone at least 21 years old.

The initiatives would only be the first step in the process, said John Hudak, deputy director at the Brookings Institution, where he specializes in state and federal marijuana policy. After voters approve the measures, he said, the state legislatures normally would need to set up regulatory structures within each state. Currently, 11 states have legalized full, adult marijuana use.

Many credit this year’s success to reworked ballot questions that highlight racial inclusivity.

In Arizona, where a similar ballot measure failed just four years ago, advocates credit higher support for this year’s effort to a reworked ballot question.

Besides legalizing marijuana, the proposition would set up a pathway to strike prior convictions for marijuana from criminal records and includes a provision for home growers.

Republican Gov. Doug Ducey opposed this year’s ballot measure, asking voters to again vote “No.”

“The current system with medical marijuana is serving the people who need it for health-related reasons,” Ducey wrote in the state’s compilation of arguments for and against the measure, provided to voters. “We don’t need the wholesale expansion that full-throttle legalization will bring.”

After such strong support for marijuana’s legalization, many are now calling on the federal government to act.

The momentum in states, including deep red parts of the country, should be a call to action for the federal government, since marijuana remains illegal under federal law. 

“Regardless of who controls the White House, the House and the Senate, we should demand landmark federal marijuana reform in 2021,” Steve Hawkins, executive director of legalization advocacy group Marijuana Policy Project, told Politico.

Regardless of what actions the remaining states and the federal government take, it’s important that any future legislation include provisions that strike prior offenses from records (since those most likely targeted were Black men) and offer protections for home growers.

Marijuana wasn’t the only winner last night – Oregon voted to decriminalize all drugs.

Credit: Josh Edelson / Getty Images

Thanks to voters, Oregon will be the first state in the country to decriminalize the personal possession of all drugs, including heroin and cocaine. Oregonians passed Ballot Measure 110 with 59 percent of the vote; it’s the most far-reaching of numerous successful drug-related measures on ballots nationwide.

The success of Measure 110 is a rebuke to the notion that any person who uses drugs, no matter what the substance, is best served by an interaction with the police and prison system.

“This is part of how we reform policing: by getting them out of the drug business,” wrote Brooklyn College sociology professor Alex Vitale, author of “The End of Policing,” on Twitter.

It’s worth noting that decriminalizing drugs isn’t the same as legalizing them. Oregon’s law will remove the criminal penalties for small amounts of illegal substances. After February 1, the penalty for drug possession will be akin to a hefty traffic ticket: a $100 fine.

Those who cannot or do not want to pay can choose to agree to a “health assessment” at an addiction recovery center. The ballot measure also includes the expansion of access to recovery treatments, housing, and harm reduction services, to be funded through the reallocation of tens of millions of dollars from Oregon’s cannabis tax. Money saved by not arresting, prosecuting, and caging people found with drugs will also be redirected to a fund for treatment services.

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Georgia Delivers Control Of Congress To Democrats Thanks To This Incredible Coalition Of Voters

Things That Matter

Georgia Delivers Control Of Congress To Democrats Thanks To This Incredible Coalition Of Voters

Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

In what seems like the never ending 2020 election cycle, we can finally say that the votes are in. And the results out of Georgia are truly worth celebrating as a diverse coalition of Georgian voters helped deliver both U.S. senate seats to Democrats.

Thanks to a well organized voting apparatus, a record-breaking number of voters hit the polls and helped elect the state’s first Black senator along with the youngest senator in nearly sixty years.

The results out of Georgia help put the Senate under control of the Democrats, handing President-Elect Joe Biden a major tool in helping to implement a progressive agenda once he is inaugurated on January 20.

Georgia elects two Democrats to the U.S. Senate with history-making votes.

Democrats have swept both seats in Georgia’s critical runoff elections, giving the party control of the Senate and removing a major roadblock for President-elect Joe Biden.

Democrat Jon Ossoff defeated Republican David Perdue in Tuesday’s election, while networks had earlier called Georgia’s other race for Democrat Raphael Warnock over GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler.

The results are a rebuke of President Donald Trump, whose supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol Wednesday to try to stop Congress from counting the Electoral College results.

The Senate will now be split 50-50, but Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris will be able to cast tie-breaking votes, putting Democrats in charge of the legislative agenda, committee chairmanships and Congress’ confirmation and investigative powers.

Black and Latino voters deserve recognition for their hard work in making this possible.

Senator-Elect Warnock is the pastor of Martin Luther King Jr.’s former church in Atlanta. He will be the first Black senator from Georgia and only the 11th Black senator in American history. He won, in part, thanks to astronomical Black turnout.

Many are praising the work of Stacey Abrams and groups like Mijente, who helped register a record-breaking number of new voters. In fact, Mijente helped knock on the doors or call every single Latino resident in the state of Georgia to help get out the vote.

Meanwhile, Stacey Abrams – who had already done so much work in helping turn Georgia blue for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in November – continued her trailblazing mission in the state. Her organization, Fair Fight 2020, helped register more voters than ever before and helped make sure they understood their rights and responsibilities as a voter.

Joe Biden will now have full control of government.

Biden will now enter the White House on Jan. 20 with his party in control of both chambers of Congress, allowing him to confirm his Cabinet and judicial nominees and giving him and a chance to advance his legislative agenda, which would have gone nowhere as long as Sen. Mitch McConnell remained in charge.

Biden and Senate Democratic leaders agree their top priority will be a new round of Covid-19 relief, especially after the president-elect promised Georgia voters this week that $2,000 stimulus checks would “go out the door immediately” if Democrats won the Senate.

Many in the community are hopeful that with control of both the Senate and House, Biden will be able to push through comprehensive immigration reform and undo many of the cruel and inhumane policies put into place by the Trump administration. However, given the legislative filibuster remains in place (requiring a two thirds majority), many question just how much will be accomplished.

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The Georgia Senate Races Are Two Of The Most Important In Modern History And Here’s Why

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The Georgia Senate Races Are Two Of The Most Important In Modern History And Here’s Why

ELIJAH NOUVELAGE/AFP/Getty Images

With a runoff election just weeks away that could tip the balance of the U.S. Senate, many people across the United States have Georgia on their minds. And it’s obvious why: the stakes are high.

What happens in January’s dual senate runoff in the state, will directly impact how much of a progressive agenda a President Joe Biden can get through Congress.

Adding to the important dynamic, is the pivotal part that voters of color, in particular Black women, are playing in the races. From grassroots organizing to being members of a key voting bloc that helped lift Democrats to the White House in November, Black, Brow, and Native voters are working hard to turn out the vote.

Georgia’s two senate run off races are two of the most important races in modern history.

Although Georgia went blue for the first time since 1992 by voting for Joe Biden for president, the fight for Georgia is far from over.

This January, there will be two critical U.S. Senate runoff elections, one between Republican Sen. David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff, and the other between Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Democrat Reverend Raphael Warnock. The elections will not only decide the state’s representation, but also which political party will have a majority in the U.S. Senate, which could dramatically alter Biden’s upcoming administration.

If we want to see criminal justice reform, compassionate immigration policy, a permanent DACA program, a fairer economy that works for all Americans, and a common sense, science-based approach to the Coroanvirus pandemic – among so much else – what happens in Georgia is critical.

Here’s why the race is so critical for a Democratic agenda to have any chance of becoming reality.

Credit: Spencer Platt / Getty Images

As it stands, following the 2020 election, the new U.S. Senate will consist of 46 Democrats, two independents who caucus with Democrats, 50 Republicans, and then whoever wins these two races in Georgia.

If Democrats win both races, they will have a majority in the Senate (the Senate tie breaker is the Vice President, or in this case, Kamala Harris), giving Biden increased power to pass legislation and move forward on his policy agenda. Otherwise, if even one of the Republican candidates wins in January, the GOP will have majority control.

As the Times reports: “With judicial nominees, a stimulus deal, infrastructure and health care measures, and tax and spending policies all on the line, the Senate races in Georgia are likely to take on an intensity that mirrors the presidential race that just ended.”

What are the issues candidates are talking about?

Although much is said about the elections impact on the Senate and Biden’s presidency, the candidates are also talking issues that affect Georgians.

Joe Ossoff is highlighting Sen. Perdue’s highly questionable stock trades in which the senator seemed to financially benefit from the coronavirus pandemic. In addition, the Daily Beast recently reported that Perdue invested in a company called BWX Technologies that manufactured Navy submarine parts right around the time he became head of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower. Ossoff has also hammered hard on Perdue’s opposition to the Affordable Care Act, and the larger issue of the need for financial relief for those made newly unemployed by the pandemic.

As for Loeffler, reportedly the wealthiest person in the Senate, she too has made some questionable trades. According to published reports, Loeffler and her husband, Jeffrey Sprecher, who is the CEO of a company that owns the New York Stock Exchange, reportedly sold $20 million in shares after she attended a closed-door Senate briefing on the coronavirus in January, while also making investments in companies that may benefit from the pandemic.

Do the two Democrats have a chance to flip the Senate?

Credit: ELIJAH NOUVELAGE/AFP/Getty Images

It’s been 24 years since Georgia last sent a Democrat to the Senate, so it would appear that it’s a steep slope in achieving a double win come January. But notably, the last time the state voted for a Democratic candidate for president was in Bill Clinton’s first race in 1992—and Joe Biden changed that this year.

Can Ossoff and Warnock do the same? Recent polls show that both races are essentially even, with Warnock one point ahead of Loeffler, 49 to 48%, and Ossoff and Perdue tied at 49%. But as we know from the recent presidential elections, polls have become notoriously unreliable.

Black and Brown voters – especially women – will likely hold the key to Democratic wins.

Georgia owes it’s history-making switch to blue in part to a large and well-organized coalition of Black voters, especially Black women. Black voters were essential to Biden’s win: of the 160 million people who voted in the recent presidential election, exit polls show nearly 50 percent of registered Black women voters cast ballots. At least 90 percent voted for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice-president elect Kamala Harris. 

The shift was thanks, in part, to the tireless work of Black organizers—women like Stacey Abrams and Fair Fight, LaTosha Brown and Black Voters Matter, and Nse Ufot and The New Georgia Project—who registered, educated, and mobilized voters.

If you’re looking for ways to help – even from outside of Georgia – there’s so much you can do.

Even if you don’t live in Georgia, you can still assist from afar. One way is to phone or text bank for the Democratic challengers. Find a handful of upcoming events here and here.

Besides donating straight to the candidates’ campaigns, there are a number of organizations working to get out and protect the vote this January.

  • Fair Fight is a national voting rights organization that promotes fair elections and encourages voter participation and education.
  • The New Georgia Project has both a donation page and an Amazon wish list for its volunteers.
  • Black Voters Matter works to expand Black voter engagement through voter registration, policy advocacy, and more.

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