In response to the so-called “War on Drugs”, the late, great Bill Hicks once said, “You know what that implies? There’s a war being fought, and the people on drugs are winning it.”
As one of the most intelligently pugnacious standup comedians of all time, Hicks was delivering these timeless remarks three decades ago but never before have they rung more true than they do today in the wake of the 2020 election.
As of this writing, we still do not know who the POTUS will be.
We do not know how the balance of the Senate or Congress will ultimately fall.
With each passing hour, those questions and their answers come more clearly into focus, but with the deeply divided state of our nation’s politics we always seem to be left with a frustrating amount of 50/50s, toss-ups, and unknowns.
What we do know, however, is that everywhere that any form of once-vilified plants and natural medicines appeared on the ballot this year, they won and they won big, leaving no doubt about where the majority of voters stand when it comes to adults’ sovereign rights to safely consume cannabis and psilocybin without fear of social persecution or legal prosecution.
For at least two presidential election cycles in a row, political polling has proven to be about as reliable as a Ouija Board or Thoughts & Prayers. That is unless you are talking about one of the hottest yet most-ignored political issues of the past decade – cannabis reform.
Whether you look at nationwide polling, state-specific polling, and even in most cases local polling at the municipal level, varying forms of cannabis legalization routinely enjoy 2/3rds of likely voters supporting those measures. Then, when it comes time to put those options to the voters on Election Day, they generally show up (or mail-in) and pass the reform.
For some reason, though, neither of the two major political parties in this country seems to want to harbor that support.
In the same year that six states plus the nation’s capital in Washington, D.C. passed monumental reform measures crafted specifically to dismantle the “War on Drugs”, the Democratic Party and the majority of its voters decided to nominate a pretty prominent architect of that failed war as their top choice to be the President of the United States.
He, in turn, tapped to be his potential Vice President a former prosecutor who jailed thousands for likely low-level drug-related offenses during her reign in that role.
Yes, Biden has apologized for his past politics and has vowed to work to make it right. Yes, Harris has hit the campaign trail hard with promises of decriminalization and expungements. And, yes, all of that alone is far more than what has been proposed by their opponents, but is it really enough, given the record-high level of public support for more comprehensive cannabis reform?
Right now, it looks like they might get away with it and pull out a slim victory at the top of the ticket.
There are some true cannabis advocates serving in the House and the Senate, folks like Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and others, but even a Biden/Harris win will be severely crippled if their party cannot take back control of the Senate where countless pieces of pro-cannabis legislation are currently collecting dust under Republican rule.
Their chances of doing just that – turning the tables in the Senate – were crippled by the DNC’s unwillingness to truly embrace cannabis reform and the massive multiclass, multirace, multi-everything movement behind it.
Republicans, for their part, are somehow even worse than the Dems when it comes to acknowledging the will of their constituents on the topic of drug reform.
As on the Dem side, there are a handful of outspoken proponents of real reform in the GOP – folks like Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) – but they continue to fall in line and place motherfucking Mitch McConnell into the Senate Majority Leader position where he continues to spend most of my adult life intentionally getting nothing done.
Sensible, bi-partisan cannabis-related legislation like the MORE Act and the SAFE Banking Act come pre-packaged with overwhelming public support and still sit unmoved, and likely unread, by McConnell while Americans who could benefit from them… … … wait.
In deeply conservative South Dakota, for example, the state’s Republican governor was loudly outspoken against cannabis reform throughout the election cycle. What did voters there do? They approved bills to establish BOTH medical AND recreational cannabis markets, yet they will probably still re-elect her when the time comes.
Traditional Republican strongholds like Arizona, Montana, and Mississippi also went green in 2020, with the first two legalizing adult-use recreational cannabis, and the third finally establishing a medical marketplace.
Political leadership in those states and more to come should be very, very scared of the day that their voters realize just how good life could be if they actually elect people who agree with them on these issues.
THE YEAR EVERYTHING CHANGED
If you ask most people, they’ll probably say that 2020 has been a year they cannot wait to forget. Here’s the thing though… you’re making it through it!
Many of the things that we have long considered to be “normal” were decaying and eroding long before this year, but this year has exposed that. That’s life though! That is how we evolve as individuals and as a people.
I think that a lot of people are learning a lot about themselves and their own vulnerabilities this year, which in turn should make a lot of people more empathetic to the vulnerabilities of others.
This is why we see what we saw on Election Day in Oregon and Washington, D.C. where voters stood on the shoulders of past cannabis reform and demanded more.
D.C. easily passed Initiative 85, a decriminalization bill which will “declare that police shall treat the non-commercial cultivation, distribution, possession, and use of entheogenic plants and fungi among the lowest law enforcement priorities and … define entheogenic plants and fungi as species of plants and fungi that contain ibogaine, dimethyltryptamine, mescaline, psilocybin, or psilocyn.”
In Oregon, Measure 109 also passed easily and will allow the state to set up psilocybin-assisted therapy centers available to any adult aged 21 and up. This is being hailed as “the first state to legalize shrooms”, and that is not quite accurate but damn it sure is a step in the right direction.
Measure 110, also in Oregon, passed this week effectively decriminalizing the low-level possession of several drugs and substances like coke, meth, and more. Those busted with such a stash will now face monetary fines and mandated drug treatment instead of arrests, convictions, jail time, and a tarnished criminal record anchored to them for the rest of their lives. This program will be funded by tax revenue raked in from the state’s successful legal cannabis market.
We have discussed decriminalization many times, but it bears repeating.
No, Oregon did not make all drugs “legal”. What decrim efforts like Measure 110 do is reclassify the minor possession of illegal drugs such as meth, heroin, and cocaine from a Class A Misdemeanor to a Class E violation which carries a $100 fine and requires the perpetrator to get a health assessment by a certified drug and alcohol counselor.
If you manufacture or sell those drugs, that is still against the law.
Much like the Oregon lottery funds rehab for gamblers to treat addiction, the state will now fund and provide rehab for drug abuse.
Portugal has been doing this on a national scale since the year 2000 with success across the board, we could do the same.
Legal shrooms and decriminalized blow may seem like a lot to ask from a country that worries about gay people getting married and whether or not it’s ok to say Merry Christmas or not, but that was then, in the pre-2020 era… this is now and “normal” is a foggy memory.
As Bill Hicks also once said on the matter, “It’s not a war on drugs, it’s a war on personal freedom. Not only do I think that pot should be legalized, I think it should be mandatory.”
I agree with Mr. Hicks. Give every would-be politician a fat bongload and a heroic dose and tell me this country wouldn’t be better off.