Drug War Chronicle has this week focused on the results of ballot measures and individual candidacies of relevance to drug policy reform. We will next week publish an in-depth analysis of the potential impact that the change of control of Congress from the Republicans to the Democrats could have on our issue, but in the meanwhile a few brief comments:
First, while DRCNet is a commitedly non-partisan organization that has had both good and bad -- mostly bad -- to say about both major parties' stances on drug policy, at the present moment in time our cause or at least some politically current corners of it, has more friends on the Democratic side of the aisle. Some of them are expected to take the chairmanships of key committees:
- Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) is the next likely chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. He replaces James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), one of the most extreme drug warriors in Congress. Click here to read about Conyers' appearance at our Perry Fund event in Washington last year.)
- Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), a committed criminal justice reform, is headed toward chairmanship of the subcommittee of Judiciary that deals with crime legislation.
- George Miller (D-CA) is the likely chair of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, and Ted Kennedy (D-MA) of the Senate committee dealing with education, two of our best supporters in the effort to repeal the Higher Education Act drug provision -- we've gotten it part of the way already, it now may be a real possibility to get rid of it entirely.
- Pat Leahy (D-VT) is in line to chair the Senate Judiciary Committee, another of the best members of Congress on criminal justice issues. The current chairman, Arlen Specter (R-PA), is pretty decent on drug policy, better I would say than a lot of Democrats. But Leahy will probably do more for us, and Specter will still be there as the ranking minority member.
This is not to say that the Democratic Party is a reliable ally for us by any means. After all, the terrible mandatory minimums we are living with today were enacted 20 years ago by a Democratically-controlled Congress, on the initiative of Democratic leaders. Only a few months ago Democratic Senator Charles Schumer sponsored millions of dollars of funding for opium eradication in Afghanistan, in our opinion a big mistake and unjust to the farmers who have no other effective way of feeding their families.
Nevertheless, in our opinion we now have a much better fighting chance -- not yet for legalization, perhaps, but for much positive progress -- and less of a chance of seeing really bad bills go through. Sentencing reform, needle exchange, scaling back Plan Colombia funding, even medical marijuana -- could they happen? The answer is now a definite maybe.
The more our forces grow, the more of you, our readers, take action, the more clout the cause will have with both Democrats and Republicans. We are at a juncture of historic possibilities in the issue, and we hope we can count on your support and participation in the months and years to come.