Doors Swing Open For Marijuana On Capitol Hill

Feb 11, 2013

Advo­cates for the legal­iza­tion of mar­i­juana plan to step up their polit­i­cal giv­ing and lob­by­ing efforts now that mem­bers of Con­gress are tak­ing an inter­est in chang­ing fed­eral drug laws. The lob­by­ists say law­mak­ers who wouldn’t give them the time of day are sud­denly inter­ested in meet­ing with them and intro­duc­ing leg­is­la­tion fol­low­ing the approval of bal­lot ini­tia­tives in Col­orado and Wash­ing­ton that legal­ized recre­ational use of the drug. “These were folks who wouldn’t take a call five years ago and now they are call­ing us and telling us to get up there with our PAC money and our exper­tise,” said Allen St. Pierre, exec­u­tive direc­tor for the National Orga­ni­za­tion for the Reform of Mar­i­juana Laws (NORML). “For those of us who have been at this for the past 20 years, it has been nice to see the warm turn.” Some pro-legalization groups are increas­ing their fundrais­ing as law­mak­ers con­sider drug leg­is­la­tion. Steve Fox, direc­tor of gov­ern­ment rela­tions for the Mar­i­juana Pol­icy Project (MPP), said the group is plan­ning more aggres­sive fundrais­ing through its polit­i­cal action com­mit­tee. “Our hope is to exceed what we have done in any pre­vi­ous cycle,” Fox said. The group is aim­ing to get more than $150,000 in con­tri­bu­tions to its PAC for the 2014 elec­tion cycle — top­ping its pre­vi­ous record of more than $119,000 in dona­tions for the 2006 cam­paign, accord­ing to Fed­eral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion (FEC) records. Fur­ther, the PAC is chang­ing its name to the Mar­i­juana Pol­icy Project PAC, drop­ping a prior ref­er­ence to med­ical mar­i­juana. Fox, who also lob­bies for the National Cannabis Indus­try Asso­ci­a­tion, said the name change sig­nals that a broader reform agenda is now on the table. “The ground has shifted and we now see mem­bers of Con­gress want­ing to reg­u­late mar­i­juana like alco­hol. The name change reflects that our activ­ity on the fed­eral level is no longer just about med­ical mar­i­juana,” Fox said. But strate­gists look­ing to reform drug poli­cies are choos­ing their bat­tles care­fully at the state level. In a Nov. 28, 2012, memo obtained by The Hill, Rob Kampia, MPP’s exec­u­tive direc­tor, said Ore­gon should wait until 2016 to for a mar­i­juana legal­iza­tion bal­lot drive, when another pres­i­den­tial elec­tion would boost turnout among young vot­ers. “Given that an ini­tia­tive in Novem­ber 2014 would be almost cer­tain to lose, MPP would con­tribute no money toward a sig­na­ture drive, paid staff, or adver­tis­ing dur­ing the 2013–2014 cycle,” Kampia wrote to Ore­gon activists. Kampia said MPP is inter­ested in pass­ing an Ore­gon bal­lot ini­tia­tive in 2016 and would con­tribute $700,000 to the effort. “There is going to be dis­agree­ment at times. That’s par for the course. It’s like any other issue advo­cacy group. We will agree on the objec­tives but we might dis­agree on how to get there,” said Roy Kauf­mann, one of the activists who received the memo and is now MPP’s Ore­gon rep­re­sen­ta­tive and agrees with wait­ing until 2016. Kauf­mann was the cam­paign strate­gist for Mea­sure 80 in Ore­gon, the mar­i­juana legal­iza­tion bal­lot effort that failed in 2012. “We can’t tell our fun­ders in good faith that they should fund a 2014 ini­tia­tive. We are not say­ing it’s impos­si­ble to win. We are just say­ing it’s a com­pletely unnec­es­sary risk,” Fox said. “The only thing that can keep Ore­gon from win­ning this in 2016 is a loss in 2014.” As the move­ment for mar­i­juana legal­iza­tion spreads, com­pe­ti­tion for fundrais­ing dol­lars is likely to grow. A num­ber of well-heeled donors have already opened their wal­lets for the cause. New Approach Wash­ing­ton, the main group that cam­paigned for legal­iza­tion in that state, took in more than $6 mil­lion in con­tri­bu­tions last elec­tion cycle. The pro­lific lib­eral donor Peter Lewis gave more than $2 mil­lion to New Approach Wash­ing­ton for their legal­iza­tion cam­paign, accord­ing to state cam­paign finance records. Drug Pol­icy Action — the 501©(4) affil­i­ate of Drug Pol­icy Alliance — con­tributed more than $1.6 mil­lion. George Soros sits on Drug Pol­icy Alliance’s board of direc­tors and was a major donor to Drug Pol­icy Action in 2012. Lob­by­ists say the bat­tle that is brew­ing over drug laws will be far-reaching and not con­fined to recre­ational use of mar­i­juana. “You going to see reform on fed­eral drug pol­icy in gen­eral,” said Bill Piper, direc­tor of national affairs for the Drug Pol­icy Alliance. “It’s not just about mar­i­juana. It’s about racial dis­par­ity, over-incarceration and sav­ing money as well.” Capi­tol Hill has cer­tainly taken notice. Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Earl Blu­me­nauer (D-Ore.) each intro­duced sep­a­rate bills this past week that would reg­u­late and tax mar­i­juana like alco­hol. The two law­mak­ers also released a report on how to rethink fed­eral mar­i­juana pol­icy. On the other side of the Capi­tol, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chair­man of the Sen­ate Judi­ciary Com­mit­tee, plans to hold a hear­ing on mar­i­juana pol­icy this Con­gress. Drug laws are also get­ting a sec­ond look from the GOP, with Ken­tucky Repub­li­cans ral­ly­ing behind indus­trial hemp. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) intro­duced leg­is­la­tion this past week to exclude hemp from the Con­trolled Sub­stances Act’s def­i­n­i­tion of mar­i­juana. Sen­ate Minor­ity Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has backed that effort, say­ing he became con­vinced that hemp pro­duc­tion would be good for his state after long dis­cus­sions with the lib­er­tar­ian Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). Lob­by­ists don’t expect a mar­i­juana legal­iza­tion bill will be on Pres­i­dent Obama’s desk this Con­gress, but law­mak­ers know they will have to rec­on­cile fed­eral pol­icy at some point with the legal­iza­tion move­ment sweep­ing the states. “I often tell elected offi­cials that if you are going to remain rel­e­vant in pol­i­tics, you are going to have to move towards drug pol­icy reform because that’s where the younger vot­ers are,” Piper said. One Demo­c­rat said he’s made a per­sonal appeal to Obama — who has admit­ted to smok­ing mar­i­juana as a teenager — for changes to fed­eral pol­icy. “I raised the issue myself with the pres­i­dent at the Demo­c­ra­tic retreat [on Thurs­day]. … It should change,” Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), not­ing thou­sands of peo­ple are in jail for mar­i­juana use. Cohen plans to intro­duce leg­is­la­tion to cre­ate a com­mis­sion to study states where med­ical mar­i­juana and mar­i­juana have been legal­ized. Advo­cates believe the bill could attract White House sup­port. “The com­mis­sion gives the pres­i­dent some maneu­ver­ing room by afford­ing him time and his admin­is­tra­tion acknowl­edges that pub­lic atti­tudes about this have changed,” St. Pierre said. Source: Hill, The (US DC) Author: Kevin Bog­a­r­dus Pub­lished: Feb­ru­ary 10, 2013 Copy­right: 2013 The Hill Web­site: http://​www​.hill​news​.com/

ceaf91dd17dc.jpg 150x112 Doors Swing Open For Marijuana On Capitol Hill

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Doors Swing Open For Mar­i­juana On Capi­tol Hill

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