Medical Marijuana

Why Would One the Most Anti-Drug Democrats in Congress Offer to Endorse Medical Marijuana?

Debbie Wasserman Schultz's flip-flop flier may reflect shifts in public opinion.

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Yesterday, as Scott Shackford noted last night, Politico reported that Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Florida representative who chairs the Democratic National Committee, offered to switch positions on medical marijuana if a leading patron of the cause who is also a major Democratic donor took back his criticism of her. If that account is accurate (so far Wasserman Schultz's office is not saying), it shows a lack of principle that is striking even for a politician, since Wasserman Schultz is one of the most anti-drug Democrats in Congress. At the same time, her willingness to fllip-flop may be an encouraging sign that political pressure is finally working against the war on drugs.

Last June, after Wasserman Schultz came out against Amendment 2, a medical marijuana ballot initiative that narrowly failed in November, John Morgan, the trial lawyer who spearheaded and funded the campaign for the measure, told The Miami Herald:

I know personally the most powerful players in Washington, D.C., and I can tell you that Debbie Wasserman Schultz isn't just disliked. She's despised. She's an irritant….Why she's trying to undermine this amendment I don't know. But I'll tell you I will never give a penny or raise a penny for the national party while she's in leadership. And I have given and helped raise millions.

This week Morgan joined other drug policy reformers in opposing Wasserman Schultz's anticipated run for the Senate:

A United States senator from the Democratic Party should be in favor of the decriminalization of marijuana as a base test. Debbie is more severe. Her position denies terminally ill and chronically ill people compassion. She was an anomaly among [Democrats]. The war on drugs was lost about the same time we lost the Vietnam War. Generations have been arrested, jailed and careers and dreams lost forever.

According to an email exchange obtained by Politico (between Morgan and Democratic consultant Ben Pollara), Wasserman Schultz's office responded by offering her support for Morgan's next attempt to legalize medical marijuana, in exchange for his retraction of those comments. Morgan said no.

This episode is especially striking in light of Wasserman Schultz's abysmal record on drug policy. Last October she was one of just five Democrats who received an F in Drug Policy Action's report card on members of the House. The grades were based on seven votes during the 2013–14 session. Wasserman Schultz earned her F by voting against reform six out of seven times: She voted no on an amendment barring the Justice Department from spending money to undermine state medical marijuana laws, no on an amendment barring the DOJ from undermining state laws allowing hemp cultivation, no on an amendment allowing experimental hemp cultivation, no on an amendment barring the Drug Enforcement Administration from interfering with hemp research, no on an amendment cutting the DEA's budget by $35 million, and no on an amendment barring the Treasury Department from penalizing financial institutions that provide services to state-legal marijuana businesses.

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) also gives Wasserman Schultz a low grade. On a scale ranging from –30 to +30, with higher scores indicating greater support for reform, she scored –10.

If Wasserman Schultz came out in favor of medical marijuana, it would be a big break from this prohibitionist pattern. One possible reason for such as switch, aside from her desire to placate donors: Public opinion as measured by national polls has long supported medical marijuana and more recently has turned in favor of broad legalization. Even in Florida, a relatively conservative state with more than its share of prohibitionist retirees, 57 percent of voters supported medical marijuana in November, which was three points shy of the supermajority needed for a constitutional amendment. Among Democrats, support was 71 percent. Politicians like Wasserman Schultz are asking for trouble if they do not rethink their blind support for the war on drugs.

Update: Wasserman Schultz denies that she was offering Morgan a quid pro quo. Rather, she says, she wanted to "start a conversation," having seen a revised version of the ballot initiative that she liked better than the one she opposed last year.

Last June, notes Dan Riffle of the Marijuana Policy Project, Wasserman Schultz voted against an amendment aimed at stopping the District of Columbia from decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana. That vote, which she made as a member of the House Appropriations Committee, was a bit startling, since the previous month she had voted against a floor amendment aimed at preventing federal interference with medical marijuana laws, including the District's. The combination of votes suggests that Wasserman Schultz thinks D.C. should be free to legalize marijuana for recreational use but not for medical use, a position that is hard to understand even if we assume that her views on drug policy really are evolving.

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  1. Pennywise! Eeek!

  2. Support DWS’s possible change of heart and donate today!

  3. somebody in last night’s thread asked why they made a muppet in leather. that shit had me rolling.

    1. That was Hugh – I laughed at that, too!

    2. “That’s not a leather Muppet, that’s Troy McClure. Back in the ’70s he was quite the teen heartthrob.”

  4. Best comment to yesterday’s DWS post – “Willy Wonka lost his hat – find it for him before he cries.” yuk yuk yuk!

  5. Ow, my eye!

    Can we go back to something less horrific, like that Jared Loughner booking photo?

  6. it shows a lack of principle that is striking even for a politician

    Oh, please.

  7. “At the same time, her willingness to fllip-flop may be an encouraging sign that political pressure is finally working against the war on drugs.”

    Looks like that’s what’s happening to me.

    In 1963, when a critical mass of George Wallace’s constituency wanted segregation, he was all about “segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever”!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLLDn7MjbF0

    Come 1972, things had changed, and after a long hard look in the mirror (and, no doubt, the polls), suddenly George Wallace wasn’t in favor of segregation anymore.

    Positive change doesn’t come from electing libertarians politicians to office. It comes from changing the minds of the same old politicians’ constituencies.

    We have precious few libertarianish politicians in office, but we’ve all but won the fight for gay marriage, and we’re winning the fight for legalized marijuana, too.

    We’ve been telling people for decades that politicians aren’t the solution to their problems, and it shouldn’t surprise us to find that politicians aren’t the solution to libertarians’ problems either.

    1. George Wallace was IIRC originally not a segregationist. He lost an election to a segregationist because of his namby pambly attitude towards racial purity.

      So it was always about the polls.

      1. He was a segregationist, but pretty moderate for the time and place on racial issues and didn’t make it an important part of his campaign. He lost to a guy endorsed by the KKK, and this was his reaction:

        “Seymore, you know why I lost that governor’s race? … I was outniggered by John Patterson. And I’ll tell you here and now, I will never be outniggered again.”

        And

        “You know, I tried to talk about good roads and good schools and all these things that have been part of my career, and nobody listened. And then I began talking about niggers, and they stomped the floor.”

      2. I just wish we had video of Debbie Wasserman Schultz (no relation) saying, “Drug War today, Drug War tomorrow, Drug War forever”!

        Homie couldn’t have any more emphatic, but I guess a politician’s “forever” lasts from 1963-1972.

        As a side note, the guy that wrote that “today, tomorrow, forever” speech is the same guy that wrote, “The Outlaw Josey Wales”.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A….._and_death

      3. Prior to the assassination attempt, Wallace was campaigning on a quasi-segregationist platform which pretended it wasn’t.

        The one thing I will say for Wallace was that, long after his aspirations for power were over, he went before the NAACP convention and apologized, admitting he had been wrong.

  8. That is one homely bitch right there.

  9. Why Would One the Most Anti-Drug Democrats in Congress Offer to Endorse Medical Marijuana?

    Because, like almost all pols, she is a prostitute for power.

    Lucky for her, she is not a literal prostitute, because she would have starved to death a long time ago.

    1. Boom goes the dynamite!

    2. Maybe she’s a unionized prostitute.

  10. Debbie Wossername has undoubtedly gotten thousands of letters and emails asking her to support legalization.

    The one communication she responds to? From a big-time bundler.

    She’s a whore. An ugly whore. And ugly goes clear to the bone.

    1. Nationally, I think when the NAACP came out for legalizing marijuana, that was a big deal–especially on the Democrat front.

      Democrats don’t care much about being denounced as racists by white Republicans, but no Democrat wants to be denounced as a racist by the NAACP.

      I’m not sure there’s any way to get yourself right with the party faithful after that.

  11. Thanks for posting that picture. I’M TRYING TO EAT, HERE.

    1. Somebody should photoshop out that background with the American flag and replace it with the background from the Mona Lisa.

  12. it shows a lack of principle that is striking even for a politician

    You write about that as if people thought it bad. Where did the idea come from that elected officials were supposed to act on their own ideas, rather than taking our orders & bargaining for the best deal for their constituents? They’re agents, nothing more. The idea of politicians acting out of conviction seems to be a holdover from monarchic thinking.

    1. Explain how her support for the Drug War had anything to do with “taking our orders & bargaining for the best deal for their constituents”?

      You can fire an agent if (s)he represents you badly. With gerrymandering and ballot access laws, firing a Congressperson is usually impossible.

  13. “The combination of votes suggests that Wasserman Schultz thinks D.C. should be free to legalize marijuana for recreational use but not for medical use, a position that is hard to understand.”

    Hard to understand?

    She thinks people suffering the ravages of cancer + chemo should have less access than the typical college student at Georgetown?

    It is amazing how radical Sullum can be for the cause of freedom–and still remain professional.

    I might have called her position, “dumber than &%$@”.

  14. I’d wager this pivot is about Hillary. I’d bet that HRC is about to drop a cannabis endorsement bomb to secure the millenial vote, and it would be really bad form for such a woman to be mucking up HRC’s message.

    Even the backpedaling looks Clintonian.

    We mustn’t forget that presidential politics are about the seizure of power, through image management. Hillary looks quite presidential already – perhaps a bit too presedential, and has been evolving her stance on cannabis for some time now. And let’s not ignore that Republican’s closest ally is Rand Paul, who must very delicately maneuver around the wing nuts and religious freaks who think a law will compell people not to sin.

    Ummmhmmm…the times they are a changin’…and right fast.

    I’m sure many will agree with Mr. Morgan’s principled stance against an intellectually shallow set of arguments, and a woman who worked feverishly to cost him and his supporters millions, and perpetuated great harm to Floridians.

    Being prohibitionist in 2016 is a huge liability now. Any half-wit can see that $700,000,000 denied to criminals in one average-sized state means we could deal an ENORMOUS capital blow to the criminals – into perpetuity. And this argument will become the main thesis in the election cycle.

    Hear that off in the distance? That’s the Liberty Bell ringing, and louder with every day.

  15. guy fdoes not seem to have a clue man.

    http://www.AnonWeb.cf

  16. Parasitic Prohibitionists like WassermanShultz dance hand in hand with every possible type of criminal one can imagine?an unholy ugly alliance of ignorance, greed and hate which works to destroy all our hard fought freedoms, wealth, health and security.

  17. I’m convinced the tipping point to MJ legalization will be when elections are lost for opposing legalization.

  18. It’s called damage control. She backed the wrong horse and now that vile, self serving witch is scurrying to do damage control.

  19. It’s called damage control. She backed the wrong horse and now that vile, self serving witch is scurrying to do damage control.

  20. “The combination of votes suggests that Wasserman Schultz thinks D.C. should be free to legalize marijuana for recreational use but not for medical use[…]”

    Oh, please. The combination of votes simply means she is pro-drug war, but not so strongly so that she isn’t willing to trade a vote now and then in exchange for something she wants more.

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