Happening:

Seeing through the smoke


Christopher Gallagher

The state of weed politics after Election Day 2017

Ar 171129906
David Holub/DGO
Ar 171129906
David Holub/DGO

Let us take a moment, as we breach the holiday season, to check in on my least favorite aspect of All Things Cannabis: Politics (right behind the joys of “burning myself while high and trying to get higher” and “getting hassled by law enforcement”). President Obama’s policy concerning the strangest component of Schedule I narcotics was not great and President Trump’s, so far, is not horrible; this arena of social and legislative action is, it seems, neither divisive nor inclusive enough to the national voting public to garner the focused energy of the chief executive. Be that as it may, the fracas continues around the country in what is shaping up to be an interesting case study in states’ rights issues.

Election Night 2016 was a monumental, incredible, fantastic, unprecedented success in the history of American cannabis politics. With citizen-led ballot referenda supporting recreational legalization in four states (along with a narrow non-passage of a fifth initiative in Arizona) and medical implementation in four others, voters voiced their overwhelming support at the ballot box. This highlights another noteworthy aspect of the avalanche that is cannabis legislation over the past two decades – the reality that if legalization is going to happen on the state level, it will not be as a result of the workings of the state legislature, as lawmakers nationwide have proven to be about as useful as cat hair in your nug jar. It seems as though the only thing they are good for in many places (I’m looking at you Massachusetts and Maine legislatures) is completely screwing the pooch when it comes to implementing laws that they were too chickenshit to pass themselves (except Vermont; you’re all right with me, Vermont legislature).

Things continued to march in the direction of wider and wider legalization on Election Night 2017 with changings of the guard in New Jersey and Virginia, which saw the elections of two governors – Phil Murphy in NJ, who supports legalization wholeheartedly (and replaces the staunch prohibitionist and all-around dirtbag Chris Christie), and Ralph Northam in Virginia, who seeks to push decriminalization and increased access to medical marijuana in a state with some draconian penalties, particularly those concerning concentrates. It is pretty clear that American voters know what they want when it comes to cannabis.

That about covers the executive and legislative branches of our separated powers. As far as how the legislative branch is currently trending ... well, things are surprisingly calm in the world of Jefferson Beauregard “good people don’t smoke marijuana” Sessions. To be 1,000 percent clear: I don’t trust this guy as far as I could throw a lethal dose of cannabis, but Mr. Attorney General appears to have found the boundary where his personal beliefs become distinct from his professional duties. For this we have the United States Congress to thank; they renewed a budgetary amendment last session that forbids the Justice Department from using federal resources interfering with state medical programs. I found Sessions’ recent backpedaling under oath when questioned about his infamous opinion of the character of cannabis consumers to be a moment full of mildly sadistic mirth that may show insight into the current relationship between weed and Washington. Cannabis laws will continue to be relaxed because it is a money-maker, a “jobs creator,” even. Coupled with the fact that the American voter has spoken repeatedly over the course of a generation, the crystal ball is showing an ever-clearer picture and we can ramp up for the holidays without major concerns.

Christopher Gallagher lives with his wife and their four dogs and two horses. Life is pretty darn good. Contact him at chrstphrgallagher@gmail.com.