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Senate Democrats to Roll Out Marijuana Legalization Bill This Month, More... (4/10/24)

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #1208)

A poll of marijuana consumers offers some hints about who they will vote for in November, a group of US senators condemns Russia for holding a Pennsylvania medical marijuana user prisoner, and more.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is pushing to get a marijuana legalization bill filed this month. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

New Poll Suggests Whom Marijuana Consumers Will Vote for in 2024 US Elections. A small sample poll of regular marijuana consumers conducted by the marijuana telemedicine company NuggMD suggests that pot smokers will vote for the presidential candidate who endorses pro-marijuana policies -- regardless of party.

The poll of 755 regular marijuana users found that 59 percent would vote for a pro-legalization presidential candidate regardless of party. Another 17 percent would vote for a pro-legalization candidate only if he were a Democrat, while 10 percent would vote for such a candidate only if he were a Republican. Only 14 percent said a candidate's marijuana stance would make no difference.

When it comes to actual candidates, respondents preferred President Biden over former President Trump by a margin of 43 percent to 36 percent. Similarly, 56 percent of respondents said the Democratic Party had better marijuana policies.

The majority of respondents were not one-issue marijuana voters, with only 6 percent saying marijuana is their sole issue, 47 percent saying it is one of many issues they are concerned with, and 38 percent saying marijuana policy is not a top priority in their voting decisions.

The poll sample is tiny compared to the number of marijuana users in the country, but it provides some hints on broader sentiments.

Schumer, Democrats Plan to File Marijuana Legalization Bill This Month.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) are beating the hustings to gain support for a marijuana legalization bill that they plan to file this month. As part of their effort, they gave senators until 4/20 to sign on as original cosponsors of the bill.

"The question today is not whether cannabis should be legal -- many states have already moved ahead. The question now is whether cannabis should be subject to the same high regulatory standards, based on preserving public health and safety, that apply to alcohol and tobacco," Schumer, Wyden, and Booker wrote to colleagues.

"Federal regulation is long overdue to ensure that cannabis products are as safe as possible, to prevent access by children and adults younger than 21, and to ensure that state and local jurisdictions have the resources they need to combat impaired driving," they continued. "Federal legislation is needed to ensure that the tens of thousands of people harmed by the failed War on Drugs, predominantly from communities of color, receive the justice they deserve after decades of over-criminalization. And the federal government must catch up with the states and recognize that the prohibition of cannabis has stymied research into the effects of cannabis, made it easier for the illicit market to thrive, and ensnared thousands of people arrested for simple cannabis possession in the criminal justice system."

Their forthcoming Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act is the vehicle to do that, they said. The bill will be largely identical to the one they filed in 2022 and is set to be filed "by the end of April 2024."

Click on the title link for a long list of provisions in the bill.

Foreign Policy

US Senators Condemn Arrest of American Citizens in Russia, Including Man Doing 14 Years for Medical Marijuana. In a resolution marking the first anniversary of the arrest of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, more than 20 senators led by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) condemned the Russian government for arresting US citizens there including Pennsylvania medical marijuana patient Marc Fogel who is serving a a 14-year sentence over simple possession of marijuana.

"By introducing this resolution, we're yet again bringing to light the cruelty of the Russian government," Durbin, who also chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Tuesday. "As fellow Americans, we demand the release of all American citizens who face arbitrary arrests by the Russian government."

In a floor Speech, Durbin said that Fogel's sentence for possessing legally prescribed medical marijuana was "ludicrous."

Fogel was "detained for carrying a small amount of medical marijuana, which was prescribed by his doctor," said Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA), who is a prime cosponsor of the resolution. "But Marc has now spent over a year of a 14-year sentence in a Russian prison because of a bogus 'large-scale drug trafficking' conviction. A 14-year sentence is absurd -- even by Russian standards," he said. "The bottom line is that Marc's punishment simply does not match the crime. We must bring Marc, and all other unjustly detained Americans, home."

The resolution notes that "the Government of the Russian Federation arrested United States citizen and international schoolteacher Marc Fogel for possession of medical marijuana prescribed by his physician, then sentenced him on June 16, 2022, to an excessive 14-year sentence in a Russian labor camp."

Other Americans are being held in Russia, and the resolution names them and demands their release. The resolution "condemns the arbitrary arrest and continued detention of United States citizens Evan Gershkovich, Paul Whelan, Alsu Kurmasheva, Marc Fogel, and Ksenia Khavana, and United States permanent resident Vladimir Kara-Murza by the Government of the Russian Federation."

The US government has not escalated Fogel's case by formally designating him as wrongfully detained. The resolution calls upon it to do so. Lawmakers point out that his situation is similar to that of Women's National Basketball Association star Brittney Griner, who also served time in Russia after being found in possession of medicinal cannabis oil. Her case became a cause célèbre while Fogel has languished in relative obscurity.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

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