At some point, the Libertarian Party had a revelation. While classic Libertarians like Ron Paul had always run their platform as deeply ideological, the Libertarian Party could simply do away with the complicated thinking. They didn’t need the whole complicated thoughtful policy shtick; they could strip the party down to gays, guns, and weed. Gun owners’ votes were in the bag. All they had to do was promise to let people smoke up and the votes should pour in. Soon they rolled out their new face for these ideas; Gary Johnson and the Libertarian Party pumped out weed signs, weed hats, and weed bumper stickers. So did it work?
Kevin D’Amato | United States
Going into 2019, the political scene has undergone massive change. Following the 2018 midterms, in which the Democrat Party regained a majority in the House of Representatives, tensions have been rising. The president allowed the government to shut down over the lack of funding for his border wall. He also is already threatening to potentially do it again on February 15th. Needless to say, relations in the government are poor. This leads me to ask: What are some policy goals that the country can still pass in this political environment?
1. Criminal Justice Reform
Of course, the First Step Act did just pass. However, this is just the beginning; to assume that one bill can fix a system as bloated and broken as ours is absurd. The First Step Act, as the name implies, is a “first step” to solve our problems.
We still need to take dramatic moves in the prison system. Some things to keep in mind should be:
- Abolishing mandatory minimums
- Focusing less on punishments such as solitary and more on rehabilitation programs
- Cracking down on officer malfeasance towards prisoners
2. Pull Troops Out of Military Conflict
The President stunned many, including me, when he abruptly announced he was pulling troops out of Afghanistan and Syria. The non-hawkish American population was ecstatic. Now, the only thing we need to do is hold him to it.
Mixed statements from several other Trump Administration officials have openly contradicted the President’s own words. It is Congress’s and our duty to hold the President to his words and bring our troops home.
3. End Government Spying
It often seems like the United States government outright ignores the 4th Amendment. Agencies like the NSA and FBI have made the illegal spying of American citizens commonplace. All accountability is lost when you are not aware of your own government’s actions.
The Patriot Act and FISA courts require, at the least, massive reforms. Ideally, we should move to abolish them, but this is not necessarily likely. Regardless, you have an inherent right to reasonable amounts of privacy.
As a bonus, a pardon for Edward Snowden would be nice, too!
4. Term Limits
Term limits are the most reasonable policy to enact in the United States right now. Virtually everyone that you talk to, regardless of political persuasions, believe that some sort of limitation is necessary.
Besides just getting old, crazy politicians out of office, term limits get new ideas in Washington, stop the constant fight for reelection, and partially get money-tied politicians out of the spotlight.
The Supreme Court’s 1995 decision essentially deeming term limits unconstitutional does make things complicated, but not impossible. The way forward for this plan is a rare but necessary constitutional amendment.
5. Federal Legalization of Marijuana
Let’s be honest, it’s bound to happen sometime soon.
I don’t need to go on a diatribe to inform you of the benefits of marijuana legalization. The economic, social, and political changes that would form are life-changing.
It’s about time that we let adults make their own decisions; whether it be to drink, gamble or smoke weed. As long as you’re not hurting your neighbor, freedom is absolute.
Nick Hamilton | United States
As 2017 drew to a close, I wrote a piece on why 2018 was the year that marijuana legalization should become popular. Though there is still a long way to go, many locations took this to heart. Canada decided to fully legalize the plant, and several more states in the United States followed. But as of right now, it’s still federally illegal.
Three states legalized marijuana for recreational use in 2018: Michigan, Vermont, and Maine. This past midterm election, North Dakota voted on a referendum that would have legalized it, but the vote failed. Oklahoma also legalized it for medical use. Moreover, in December of 2018, President Trump signed the Farm Bill into law, which passed in both chambers of Congress easily. The Farm Bill allows American farmers to grow and harvest hemp.
Marijuana is now legal for recreational use in ten states and legal for medical use in 33 states. Presumed Democrat Presidential candidate Kamala Harris (D-CA) said that she believes it’s time to legalize and regulate marijuana federally. In her new book, “The Truths We Hold: An American Journey,” Harris asserts multiple times that America needs to fully legalize marijuana for all uses and erase marijuana-related convictions from people’s criminal records.
Americans Want to Legalize Marijuana
With the 2020 election cycle starting to heat up, I expect that marijuana legalization will soon be a critical issue on both sides of the aisle. According to Pew Research Center, 62% of Americans favor legalization, up 31% from 2000. Additionally, 54% of Boomers (1946-1954) support it, showing a drastic increase from around 15% in the 1990s. Even some Republicans are starting to make legalization concessions. 45% of Republicans support legalization, as do 59% of Republican-leaning independents.
It’s absolutely clear the Americans want legalization. It’s clear that if marijuana is not federally legal in the coming years, our government is doing something very wrong. President Trump has been surprisingly open to the idea, making a commitment to push for reform of marijuana laws, with a goal of having medical marijuana federally legal. If he accomplishes this, he will have done more to legalize the plant than any previous administration.
It wouldn’t surprise me to see New York state legalize marijuana for recreational use in 2019, considering that New York City has thrown around the idea. A lot of the more liberal states could absolutely follow suit soon. However, in order to do so in every state, marijuana activists need to continue persuading more Republicans to get behind the movement.
Seeing as marijuana legalization could be a hot topic of the 2020 Presidential Campaign, it wouldn’t be crazy to say that more states will lift bans. I’m predicting that four states legalize recreational marijuana this year: New York and three others.
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By Dane Larsen | @therealdanelars
During the 2018 election season, the ballot initiative was taken by the people of Missouri, Michigan, and Utah that will lead to some degree of marijuana legalization. The previously thought absurdity of a normalized marijuana community and/or industry seems to be fading away as the years go by.
The issue caused uproar across the United States even for strictly medical authorization in select states. Progressive states on the west coast have gone so far to codify cannabis for recreational use, however the stigma has been set up for long enough to the point where it was unsure whether or not particularly socially conservative states of the south and fly-over country would ever cross the threshold to permit use of marijuana in any practice.
Recently, dubbed the “green wave”, a major shift in the policy of red states, that uphold traditional culture on a pedestal has taken place, resulting in the progression of culture regarding minor issues on the national scale, marijuana legalization being one. For example, this past Wednesday, June the 9th, congressmen from both West Virginia and Kentucky introduced similar proposals, both calling on fellow lawmakers to allow the people of their respective states to retain the freedom of body autonomy. With the legalization of marijuana to any degree, the citizens gain the choice of what to do what they want to do to their own body.
State Senator Richard Ojeda (D) representing the 7th district of West Virginia, submitted a bill to permit adults aged 21 and over to grow, consume, or possess any amount of marijuana for medical or recreational users alike. SB143 outlines a seemingly radical idea to the conservative majority of West Virginia population, calling on Governor Jim Justice to (R), saying in the annual State of the State Address this past week that he is “adamantly, etched in stone, adamantly against recreational marijuana”.
With this no-nonsense policy of the state executive branch, the bill is not expected to pass through Congress in 2019, but the outcry of people from the general public has made major shifts in the way other states and their very own government look at the population of West Virginia. Although they were the only state to declare independence from the Confederate States of America in the Civil War, it is recognized as a Southern state in its culture and political appearance. With the introduction of this bill, discourse on the topic of marijuana is pushed to the forefront of congressional discussion in just about the most hard-right, red-run state in the USA, with 68.8% of who voted for Trump in 2016.
More or less in the same situation as West Virginia when it comes to Southern perception, Kentucky has taken a different approach to the cannabis issue, taking small steps to legalize it, instead of going full-out in one bill as West Virginia is attempting. Senator Dan Seum (D) is teaming up with Jason Nemes (R) and Diane St Onge (R) on HB136 that would allow doctors, at their own discretion, to prescribe medical marijuana to patients they see the best fit for the products. Governor Matt Bevin has been on record saying that he will sign off on a medical marijuana bill if it is regulated properly, especially for an industry with such a negative stigma.
The sponsors of the bill state that with the passing, the state could provide alternative can to combat side effects for conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, Crohn’s disease, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The bill does not list any conditions but leaves that up to doctors to decide when to recommend it. “We’re trying to address the 40,000 to 60,000 Kentuckians who are not having symptoms addressed by conventional medicines,” St. Onge stated on Thursday, revealing a less radical approach to the issue, one that can speak to the conservative state easier.
The Green Wave
Other states have formulated plans on taking progressive steps towards varying levels of marijuana legalization, however, no solid legislation has been written in said states.
Missouri has already gained approval from the legislative committees needed, as they legalized medical marijuana in the past 2018 midterms as a ballot initiative. Representative Brandon Ellington (D) plans to go farther with this issue, with bills in the works to work towards decriminalization and eventually legalization. Texas legislators plan to propose a constitutional amendment to legalize all forms of cannabis; while New Jersey plans to do the same, gaining most of its support not from the House Representatives and Senators, but rather Governor Phil Murphy (D). Virginia could see the forward movement as well, with Governor Ralph Northam (D) on record backing in favor of progressive marijuana policies, stating that decriminalization could “ease overcrowding in our jails and prisons, and free up our law enforcement and court resources for offenses that are a true threat to public safety.”
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William Ramage | United States
Multiple nations around the world are shifting towards marijuana-friendly policies. However, the United States has remained highly conservative on the issue. Despite numerous breakthroughs in the medical use of marijuana, the majority of the United States has yet to legalize any form of cannabis. Given this steadfast view on marijuana, why does the United States take such a liberal approach to alcohol?
The Alcohol Comparison
Alcoholism, drunk driving, and alcohol poisoning contribute to 88,000 annual alcohol-related deaths in the U.S. Alcohol is the third highest cause of preventable death in America, falling short to tobacco use and physical inactivity. On a global perspective, alcohol-related deaths account for 5.9% of total deaths.
In spite of this, modern society has normalized the use an abuse of alcohol. As a result, it often overlooks these looming problems. This normalization of alcohol is a result of alcohol use being prevalent throughout the majority of human history; we are simply used to it and have grown accustomed to it. In the early days of our republic, there was an effort to outlaw alcohol.
The Temperance Movement came from alcohol plaguing the common man. In fact, many would spend far too much of their wages on liquor. This negatively impacted his family and resulted in many inter-familial tensions. The movement was mildly successful but eventually died out completely.
Present day marijuana resistance, on the other hand, is essentially an unorganized, government-led temperance movement. It is preventing the population of our “free” country from using it medically and recreationally without a specific reason to ban it. In fact, a nationwide legalization of marijuana would be beneficial on various levels, far more so than alcohol is.
Marijuana and Medical Benefit
Marijuana has many health benefits, including being an effective painkiller. Cannabis can absolutely be an addictive substance. However, addiction is fairly uncommon and less dangerous, especially compared to opiates like morphine and codeine. These drugs, though, are legal in the United States for medical use. One can very easily overdose to the point of death from using these opioids, while it is impossible to do so from marijuana.
A number of studies have shown that marijuana use helps to curb vomiting and nausea in chemotherapy patients. The government should not be preventing these patients from receiving the treatment they need; it is unfair and the benefits greatly exceed the minor risks. There is also some evidence that suggests marijuana can target cancer cells without harming normal ones.
If applied on a national level, medical marijuana could cause a breakthrough in cancer research. Marijuana is a very low-risk drug, far more so than many legal ones. America’s decision to legalize cannabis in all forms is long overdue, and its strict policy on it is incredibly contradictory, given the legal status of other drugs, both recreational and medical.
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