Yesterday, the Democratic Party’s delegates appointed to their Platform Committee convened to vote on several key issues. One issue of importance was the topic of the legalization of cannabis. The presumptive nominee for the Democrats, former Vice-President Joe Biden, has not been a champion for legalization. Rather, he has adopted a lukewarm stance on the issue. This should come as no surprise to students of American politics. Biden served as a U.S. Senator for over 30 years and VP to Barack Obama for another eight, yet in all that time his record on criminal justice reform remains tarnished by his own support for the prison-industrial complex. He is no paragon of justice. Joe Biden is often credited as the architect behind the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. The ’94 crime bill is frequently referenced by social scientists as the driving force behind mass incarceration and the racial disparities in the modern criminal justice system.
With the rise of younger, progressive, liberal-minded leaders within Congress, State, and Local governments, it was the hopes of many reformers that the Democratic Party would abandon the old ways of being tough on crime for sake of votes from the suburban white electorate in the South and Mid-West, areas of the country where safe access to cannabis remains out of reach for many. Yet, despite the wave of new leaders rising within the DNC, Millennials and Zoomers, there remains enough Gen-X’ers and Baby Boomers in power to shut down any hopes for real reform in the Democratic Party’s Platform. In a vote of almost 2 to 1, the DNC platform committee voted down an amendment to their party’s platform that would have made them the first major political party to advocate for the legalization of marijuana. Instead, the DNC platform committee chose to maintain their current position of decriminalization and efforts to reschedule cannabis.
The votes tallied up to 60 in favor of legalization to 105 against legalization. For Floridians, there are some key figures that voted NO on legalization that they should all know about before taking to the election booth this August and November. Tampa Congresswoman Kathy Castor, Former Executive Director of the Florida Democratic Party & Lobbyist Ana Cruz, South Florida State Senator Oscar Branyon, Former State Representative Mia Jones from Jacksonville, Former Candidate for Coral Springs Commissioner Khurrum Wahid, Miami-based Lobbyist & Political Consultant Ginette Magana, Broward Firefighters’ Union President Walt Dix were all members of the Florida delegation that voted No to legalization. Ryan Deitsch, a survivor of the Parkland massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, was the sole Yes vote from the Florida delegation. The sad part through all of this is that the process for selecting these delegates to the platform committee was done behind closed doors by the Florida Democratic Party leadership. The days of transparency and integrity within party politics remains out of reach still. Florida Democratic Party Chair, Terrie Rizzo from Palm Beach County, oversaw one of the least democratic delegate election processes in recent memory. Her failures to create a transparent system where the voices of the actual voters would be heard are evident in the backroom appointments and shenanigans in the Florida DNC delegation. How can over 70% of Floridians support legalization yet, 90% of the delegates to the DNC platform committee represent prohibitionists?
Sadly, we the people are still held hostage by the very employees we hire to represent our interests. Elected officials are exactly that, our employees. There needs to be a ground swell of public pressure on each of these failures. There must be accountability for the sake of integrity. We cannot continue to look to politicians that smile in our face while plotting our destruction behind closed doors. Mass incarceration, disparities in criminal justice, barriers to entry into legal cannabis markets are who won yesterday. And, the powers that be funding these horrible attacks on the American people will continue to use their puppets to enforce policies that very few voters support. For those who are reading this and thinking that they might look across the aisle for answers, you would be gravely mistaken. Republican leaders are doubling down on these same policies. CoreCivic, formerly known as Correction Corporation of America, was founded by Thomas Beasley, former chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party. Geo Group, Inc., headquartered in Boca Raton, Florida, is a real estate investment company heavily invested in private prisons. Both these corporations, through PACs and direct contributions, fund the prohibitionists in the GOP, some who even pretend to support medical cannabis for the sake of remaining in office.
In conclusion, our elected officials in both parties are failing the American people by continuing a War on Drugs that has become the most blatant attack on personal freedom for many while treating it as a public health crisis for the privileged few. It is in this same dichotomy that we see African Americans and Hispanic Americans disproportionately incarcerated for cannabis while Wall Street investment bankers make millions in legal markets designed to keep these same minority groups from a piece of the pie. If you wish to hear more on these subjects, join Suncoast NORML for a panel on Racial Justice & Cannabis Prohibition on Thursday, July 30th at 7pm. You can register for your free ticket at bit.ly/RacialJusticeCannabisProhibition. It is our mission at Suncoast NORML to #LegalizeIt and we will continue to educate the public on who their friends are in our government.