By Chris Walsh
If the cannabis business hadn’t already crossed into the realm of legitimacy, a good case can be made that it has now.
Four prominent political figures across the country publicly supported some aspects of the marijuana industry over the past week. The list includes President Barack Obama, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
Here’s why this is significant:
a) It’s now completely acceptable for politicians from both parties to publicly support cannabis or drug reform in general.
b) Elected leaders are starting to finally acknowledge their constituents, who overwhelmingly favor medical marijuana legalization and are increasingly supporting recreational cannabis as well.
c) It will encourage other lawmakers and high-ranking officials to consider marijuana legislation – both medical and recreational – which could generate more support for legalization bills.
d) It puts political pressure on the federal government to reform its cannabis laws.
Additionally, the fact that three Republican governors – who all happen to be in the conversation for the GOP presidential nomination – came out the very same week in support of drug policy change shows just how important marijuana has become in the national discourse.
Here’s a recap of the remarks made this week:
– In an interview published Sunday, Obama said that allowing Colorado and Washington to move forward with their recreational marijuana programs is “important,” adding that he believes cannabis is no more dangerous than alcohol. While Obama stressed that legalization in the two states will be difficult, it’s particularly notable that the commander in chief of the country made such favorable remarks about cannabis.
– On Tuesday, Christie – who hasn’t exactly helped foster New Jersey’s medical marijuana program in the past – said he will work to “end the failed war on drugs.” He didn’t specifically mention marijuana, but his comments could indicate he is in favor of decriminalization (which might then lead to legalization). One observer called his remarks “revolutionary stuff,” while drug reform advocates said it’s a promising step in the right direction.
– On Wednesday, Jindal said he would support the legalization of medical marijuana in Louisiana as long as distribution is tightly regulated and supervised. He’s now one of the most high-profile elected officials in the South – long a bastion of anti-MMJ sentiment – to publicly back the idea of medical marijuana.
– On Thursday, Perry said he thinks states should be allowed to decide whether they want to legalize cannabis. He then insinuated that, as governor of Texas, he has worked to implement “policies that start us toward decriminalization” and keep people from going to prison.
These comments come a week after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat representing Nevada, voiced his support for medical marijuana legalization.
Yes, these are politicians. What they say publicly is not always what they actually believe, or what their policies reflect. So it’s best to take some of this with a grain of salt.
But each of these elected officials decided it was worth the risk to address this controversial subject.
That in itself is a sign of how mainstream marijuana has become. At this rate, cannabis could even help tip the scales in the 2016 election.
Chris Walsh is editor of Marijuana Business Daily