PHILADELPHIA- On Tuesday the Democratic National Congress (DNC), during their convention in Philadelphia, added a pledge to support cannabis law reform as a national priority.
"The Democratic Party now officially supports ending cannabis Prohibition," Democratic House Representative Jeff Irwin, of Ann Arbor, told TCC.
The TNS news service reported that Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, said, "The fact that one of the country's two major parties has officially endorsed a pathway to legalization is the clearest sign we've seen yet that marijuana reform is a mainstream issue at the forefront of American politics."
"When the Democratic National Committee announced its platform including a pathway to ending the prohibition of marijuana, once again I felt a sense of hope," said Lapeer attorney Bernard Jocuns. He is also the Chair of the Marijuana Law Section of the Michigan Bar Association. Jocuns believes the Democrats are ready to organize much like attorneys are organizing in Michigan. "This is a huge victory for the Democratic Party and now the concept of a "Cannabis Caucus" is more of a reality than a "giggle factor"."
What does this mean for Michigan? It is a significant step forward- but more work is still needed, say statewide political leaders and activists.
"By adding this plank to the platform, Democrats join a majority of Americans who acknowledge that prohibition is a costly failure and that treatment is a more successful intervention than incarceration," Rep. Irwin said.
Matthew Abel, attorney and founder of Cannabis Counsel PLC in Detroit, has in past years run for public office as a Green Party candidate. He is the Executive Director of the Michigan chapter of NORML, and is on the Board of Directors for MILegalize.
"It is a good thing that one of the major political parties in the United States finally is beginning to address the overreach of the drug war," Abel said in an exclusive interview. "While adopting a more progressive platform toward marijuana legalization does not change the law, it does at least acknowledge that the marijuana laws in the United States are in need of modification."
Former Republican candidate for office and principal in the Evergreen Management group, businessman George Brikho, saw the party vote as an advance in societal attitudes.
"I'm glad to see that the Democratic Party is supporting marijuana legalization, just like the majority of Americans. Most freedom loving Republicans support legalization," Brikho added. "I'm hopeful that, as a country, we do the Constitutional thing sooner than later and legalize this powerful healing herb."
Some Democrats are concerned about Hillary Clinton's suggestion that more research is needed before we advance marijuana law reform on a federal level, even though she has supported the rights of individual states to choose their own rules. "I was a little puzzled months back when Hillary Clinton indicated that she felt there needed to be more research about the effects of marijuana. The research is already there from psychomotor skills to potentially curing diseases and/or increasing the quality of life for those people with debilitating ailments," Jocuns added. "Hopefully, the "research aspect" will not be a distraction to the path to legalization."
Independent voter Jamie Lowell expressed hope that the advance seen in one political party is carried over to the party leadership in Michigan, and that state actors advocate for change in concert with long-term cannabis law reform advocates. "Bring this enthusiasm home," he urged the Michigan Democratic delegation. "Build on the successes we've accomplished here."
Lowell is the co-founder of 3rd Coast Dispensary, in Ypsilanti, the first licensed medical marijuana distribution center in the United States East of the Mississippi River. He's also on the Board of MILegalize. "Too often we see progress in other states, or in federal policy, while we get no evolution of thought among our elected leaders. The recent hijacking by special interests of the bills proposing changes to the medical marijuana program, the misdeeds in the Bureau of Elections, these are the ways in which progress is snuffed.
"We do not need to start from scratch with marijuana law reform; the voters are way ahead of the elected officials on this issue."
The Democratic Party voted in favor of this statement as a guiding principle for the party and its membership:
"Because of conflicting federal and state laws concerning marijuana, we encourage the federal government to remove marijuana from the list of 'Schedule 1' federal controlled substances and to appropriately regulate it, providing a reasoned pathway for future legalization. We believe that the states should be laboratories of democracy on the issue of marijuana, and those states that want to decriminalize it or provide access to medical marijuana should be able to do so. We support policies that will allow more research on marijuana, as well as reforming our laws to allow legal marijuana businesses to exist without uncertainty. And we recognize our current marijuana laws have had an unacceptable disparate impact in terms of arrest rates for African-Americans that far outstrip arrest rates for whites, despite similar usage rates."