A coalition of activists from across New York State is moving to form a "Marijuana Reform Party" in this fall's elections. They are supporting a slate of five candidates for statewide office in order to achieve official ballot-line status in the state, taking their inspiration from the Grassroots Party of Minnesota, which made a similar effort in 1994.
"We are confident that we can get the 50,000 votes we need to get the ballot line, that's only 1% of the total vote," Thomas Leighton, the MRP candidate for Governor told The Week Online. Our biggest challenge is gathering the 15,000 signatures we need to get on the ballot to begin with. We only have a few more weeks, and need everyone who can in New York who supports this issue to join our petitioning drive."
New York state has a long history of smaller independent political parties playing important roles in "fusion" election campaigns. Organizers believe that with a ballot line of its own, the MRP will be able to gets its agenda into the political discourse, influence close elections, have more of a voice in the state legislature, and bring the marijuana issue further into the mainstream.
"Leighton for Governor" Campaign Manager Aaron Wilson told the Week Online, "There are all sorts of opportunities this approach could create. For example, there are many elected judgeships in the state that go uncontested each election. We could run candidates for local D.A. and Sheriff's offices, just to force a debate on the prohibition issue. The coin of the realm in New York is votes, and with even a small number of votes we will be able to get heard and effect changes in the laws."
The MRP campaign is being supported by a range of drug reformers in all parts of New York, including members of ReconsiDer, New York CAN (Rob Robinson, one of NY-CAN's activists is a candidate), college marijuana activists out of school for the summer, and the Rochester Cannabis Coalition. For more information or to contact the MRP, you can visit their web site at http://ww.MarijuanaReform.org.
Candidates and parties in other parts of the country are taking on the drug issue as well. In Orlando, Florida, Democratic Congressional candidate Al Krulick (http://www.vote-al.org) is challenging incumbent Bill McCollum, the sponsor of H.R. 372, the "sense of the house" resolution against medical marijuana; Krulick's key campaign plank is ending the war on drugs. Nationally, the Libertarian Party (http://www.lp.org) is fielding many candidates who are actively opposed to drug prohibition.