New York’s progressive governor, Andrew Cuomo, son of the former governor Mario Cuomo, has got it right again. Remember when he endorsed gay marriages? Long before Barack Obama decided that it was politically okay for him to do so? Well, this time, Gov. Cuomo is talking about marijuana. He wants to loosen New York’s pot laws so that a person found to have a small amount of marijuana is fined $100, not saddled with a criminal record that might negatively affect the rest of that person’s life. Did this take guts, or is it just politically motivated?
Drug-reform advocates, while pleased to have the popular governor of one of the largest states in America on board, see Cuomo responding to a shift in public opinion more than anything else. “Governor Cuomo is definitely no friend to marijuana reform,” said Morgan Fox, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project. But “politicians are starting to realize they can’t be behind the times on this any longer.”
A recent Rasmussen poll showed that 56 percent of Americans support the legalization of marijuana and only 36 percent oppose it. A Mason–Dixon poll conducted in May found that 74 percent of Democrats, 79 percent of Independents and 67 percent of Republicans believe that the federal government should respect state medical marijuana laws and not prosecute individuals who are in compliance with these laws.
Despite these facts, Obama’s Department of Justice has embarked on a campaign against medical marijuana. This set Obama on course to surpass George W. Bush’s record number of facility closures in his second term. This antagonistic approach could cause the Obama some trouble in his reelection. In Colorado, a swing state key to his reelection hopes, many of the same activists who worked for his 2008 campaign helped to put the legalization of marijuana on the ballot in November. Just last month, Democratic primaries in Texas and Oregon saw the pro-pot candidates win, despite their opponents savaging them for being soft on crime. Texas? Who’d a thunk?
So, Cuomo’s embrace of marijuana decriminalization comes at a key moment and could serve as a signal to fellow Democrats unhappy with present drug policies but concerned about the political danger of moving on the issue. “Cuomo is setting a tone that I think others will follow,” Albany County District Attorney P. David Soares, who shocked the local political establishment by winning as the drug-reform candidate in his first race eight years ago, told The Daily Beast. And making his move on pot reform now gives the governor some credibility with party activists down the line. If Cuomo runs for president in 2016, along with Hillary Clinton, many believe he will have the support of progressives who are ready to change the harsh drug laws that threaten this country.
Politicians typically lag behind the voters on social issues, at least publicly. Many elected officials will say in private that they personally support marijuana legalization but fear political repercussions if they “come out” about their support for reform. Hopefully, that dynamic is shifting. In blue Oregon and California and red Texas, candidates have just succeeded with a pro-reform message. As the momentum builds for marijuana legalization across the country, politicians will have no choice but to get in step with the public. And then we’ll really start to see things change.
Conservative columnist George Will’s recent conversion shocked many. The tide is changing. According to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy:
- prescription drug abuse is responsible for about 75 percent of drug-related deaths in the United States – and 90 percent in West Virginia, not marijuana.
- prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing drug problem in the United States, not marijuana use.
- according to a report issued by the Centers for Disease Control in November, the death toll from overdoses of prescription painkillers has more than tripled in the past decade.
- The finding shows that more than 40 people die every day from overdoses involving narcotic pain relievers like hydrocodone, methadone, oxycodone, and oxymorphone. These prescription painkillers are responsible for more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined. (No mention of deaths from marijuana.)
Obviously Gov. Cuomo and columnist George Will have made a choice. They are being realistic. They are saying out loud what most Americans think – the U.S. drug laws are outdated! As written in a previous rant, author Tim Wise believes that continuing this stupid so-called War on Drugs is doing serious damage to the fabric of our country and we cannot continue to incarcerate thousands of our citizens for minor drug crimes. Thanks, Andrew Cuomo. Thanks, George Will. Obama – you’re next!
This is my rant today.