A Democratic congressional nominee who is all but certain to be elected to the House this November said on Thursday that it is “shameful” the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) platform committee recently rejected an amendment to make marijuana legalization a 2020 party plank.
Mondaire Jones, a progressive attorney who won his party’s primary in New York’s strongly Democratic 17th congressional district last month, put DNC officials on notice during a virtual Netroots Nation event, calling them out for not advancing bold policies such as comprehensive cannabis reform and universal health care.
“It is shameful to me that the Democratic platform…rejected the legalization of marijuana—something that really should not be controversial anymore, especially given what we’ve seen in our so-called criminal justice system, which I call the criminal legal system,” he said. “The incarceration of so many black and brown people, deliberately, intentionally a relic of Jim Crow.”
He added that voters shouldn’t necessarily rely on presidential nominees to pursue progressive policies that they are demanding and should instead expect to see leadership from Congress.
“We can’t take for granted the fact that our nominees are going to govern in a way that we will want them to and it’s why it’s so important that we exercise, we’re in Congress, our Article One authorities,” Jones said. “One thing that we’ve gotten away from in recent years is the fact that Congress really should be the most powerful aspect of our federal government.”
“It’s why the framers put it in Article One because they thought the Congress should be most powerful—but instead we’ve have an executive that has way too much power. As a soon-to-be progressive in Congress, we need to be acting as a bloc. That means everybody in the Congressional Progressive Caucus needs to get their act together and withhold their support from legislation that should be better for the American people. It means that folks who are self-described as progressives in Congress have to start legislating like that. And if not, then grassroots organizers need to hold them accountable.”
While Jones didn’t explicitly criticize presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, his ongoing opposition to marijuana legalization is precisely an example of what he’s talking about. Despite supermajority support for the policy change among Democrats, he’s refused to adopt a pro-legalization position, instead drawing the line at possession decriminalization, medical cannabis legalization, modest rescheduling and expungements.
There are some advocates who suspect it’s because Biden’s agenda omits legalization that DNC’s platform committee soundly rejected the amendment. Even a co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus and sponsor of a legalization bill, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), voted against the measure, taking activists by surprise.
Meanwhile, Biden’s pick for a vice presidential running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), has evolved on marijuana policy. Though she coauthored an official voter guide argument opposing a California cannabis legalization measure as a prosecutor in 2010 and laughed in the face of a reporter who asked her about the issue in 2014, she went on to sponsor legislation to federally deschedule marijuana in 2019.
Even so, she’s indicated she doesn’t plan to push the former vice president to support legalization.
A key committee chairman’s staffer and several advocates told Marijuana Moment earlier this month that there are plans in the works to get the House version of Harris’s marijuana legalization bill to the chamber’s floor in September, though nothing has yet been publicly confirmed by leadership.
Jones, in his new comments, made clear that the executive branch shouldn’t have the final word on this and Congress should move to advance cannabis legalization regardless of the president’s position.
Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), the incumbent being challenged by formerly anti-marijuana Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA), made a similar point last month, saying that a Democratic Congress would advance legal cannabis legislation in 2021 despite opposition from a President Joe Biden.
Photo courtesy of Mike Latime
By Kyle Jaeger for MarijunaMovement.com