For Best Chance of Legalizing Cannabis in Pa: Pull the Lever Straight Democrat

Posted by on Oct 30, 2018 in Blog

Maybe you are a Democrat. Maybe you are a Republican. Maybe you are a Libertarian or Green. Then again, maybe you’re an anarchist or simply apathetic or apolitical. Maybe you couldn’t care less about politics. I want to talk to all of you and tell you the truth about how we stand the best chance of legalizing cannabis in Pennsylvania.

In short, we recommend voting straight Democrat this year.

Now, I know that for some of you who read this, you would never base your vote on just one issue alone. It’s good to consider a broad spectrum of economic, political, cultural and societal issues and come to a reasoned conclusion.

Keystone Cannabis Coalition is not fighting to end property taxes, roll back environmental regulations, privatize the prisons, “put prayer back in the schools”, go full force with fracking, ban abortion, dismantle the public schools and put everyone in private charter, religious or corporate schools, break up the unions or any of those issues. If we were, we’d be telling people to vote Republican. To people who value those issues over and above cannabis legalization then they will vote Republican.

KCC is a cannabis legalization organization so we have the responsibility not to tell you the best way to get tax reform or crack down on the immigrants but to tell you the best way to get cannabis legalization and that is by voting for Democrats.

Now, you might say, “What have the Democrats ever done for us?”

That’s a fair question. Let’s see what the Democrats of Pennsylvania have done for us.

Who remembers the fight we waged together to win decrim in Philadelphia? After a year-long campaign of civil disobedience we got Democratic city councilman Jim Kenney to introduce a decrim ordinance, it was passed by a Democratic council and signed by a Democratic mayor. Now that councilman is Mayor and he supports the full legalization of cannabis. Democratic District Attorney Larry Krasner is not even prosecuting cannabis offenses anymore.

When we passed decrim in Harrisburg it was introduced by a Democratic councilwoman. Worked on and improved by a Democratic city council and signed by a Democratic mayor.

When decrim was passed in Pittsburgh it was introduced by Democrats and signed by a Democratic mayor.

When we passed Decrim in York it was introduced by a Democratic councilman and signed by a Democratic mayor.

When decrim was passed in State College it was introduced by a Democrat, passed by a Democratic council and signed by a Democratic mayor.

When decrim was passed in Erie it was introduced by a Democratic councilman, passed by the Democratic city council and was signed by the Democratic mayor.

In Easton a Democratic councilman is introduced a decrim ordinance and was initially supported by the Democratic mayor. Though the ordinance was declined by one vote Easton passed a resolution of support for statewide decrim.

When decrim was passed in Allentown it was introduced by a Democratic City Councilwoman, passed by the Democratic council and signed by the Democratic mayor.

Decrim was introduced by a Democrat in Bethlehem, passed by the Democratic city council and signed by the Democratic mayor.

In Reading, we got a decrim ordinance introduced by two Democratic council members. The ordinance was dropped in favor of a resolution supporting statewide decrim and the Democratic council passed it.

In Lancaster, we got the ordinance introduced by Democrats, passed by the Democratic city council and signed into law by the Democratic mayor.

Everyone knows that the full legalization of cannabis is supported by the Auditor General of Pennsylvania, Eugene DePasquale. Guess what, he’s a Democrat. He’s out there fighting for legalization constantly.

All five of the Democrats who ran for Lt. Governor of Pa. supported legalization of cannabis. The winner, John Fetterman, was the most gung-ho of them all saying that Pennsylvania should go “Full Colorado”. If he wins, he will be the number two man in Pennsylvania, a sort of right-hand man to Governor Wolf.

So far, all the legalization bills ever introduced into the Pa. legislature and every single legislator who signed onto those bills as cosponsors have been Democrats. Jake Wheatley is our new champion in the House with HB2600 and at last glance he has 14 Democratic cosponsors though the legislation is so new you can smell the ink.

In fact, as of September of 2017 it is the official policy of the Pennsylvania State Democratic Party to support the full legalization of cannabis and candidates who support it. The resolution is fairly radical, written by a veteran of Philly NORML, Derek Rosenzweig. If you want to know what the official policy is as written, you can read it here.

Now, I know you might be saying, “Hey, what about medical cannabis? That was a bipartisan effort, you know!”

Yeah, it was bipartisan but here are some facts about the whole effort. From 2009 until 20013 the fight was on for medical cannabis legalization and it was entirely led by Democrats. There were zero Republicans that would touch it with a ten foot pole.

The bills of mmj that were introduced by the Democrats In both the House and the Senate both had home grows, full plant right from the outset and lightly regulated. No Republican would go along with that.

Enter our first Republican hero – Mike Folmer. Folmer caught the world by surprise. Republicans gasped. No one could believe it. They braced themselves to see what would happen and saw Mike elevated to rock star status. Other Republicans jumped in and before long the majority of them joined in.

Of course, the only way the Republicans would get onboard is if they could cut out home grows, cut out actually cannabis buds, make it oils only and regulate the whole thing tighter than a frog’s ass.

When the bill came up for a vote every single Democrat voted Yes. All of our most vehement opposition came from Republicans. Who could ever forget Matt Baker? Or the time when the Republican Speaker Mike Turzai broke down crying when he realized medical cannabis would win? There were more than 40 No votes and every single one of them came from Republicans.

So yeah, it was bipartisan, sort of, but if the Democrats would have had their way we would have won six years earlier and we’d be growing our own.
Let’s not forget where we were just four short years ago. Why would we ever go back to that time when Republican Governor Tom Corbett ruled over us? We have zero chance back then at medical cannabis. Zero chance at industrial hemp. Zero chance at decrim and not a chance in Alabama of legalizing it.

Governor Wolf had to win four years ago. Had he not have won we’d be in big trouble. We still would not have medical cannabis, we still would not have industrial hemp and he may have decided to crack down on the cities that have enacted decrim ordinances. Governor Wolf supports statewide decrim and he has encouraged cities to take the lead as he tries to steer the state in that direction. Having a supportive governor has definitely encouraged and emboldened cities to take action.

Now, I have to say, when it comes to industrial hemp there was a true and completely bipartisan effort. If you count the votes in the state senate and the house, the vote was 233-0! That means that every single Democrat and every single Republican voted Yes for hemp. That was a truly remarkable achievement but it could have only been done by having a governor and an administration that supported hemp legalization and before Wolf we never did before.

Is there more good news about Pennsylvania Republicans?

Yes, slightly. The majority of them now support the decrim-light bill introduced by Berks County Republican, Barry Jozwiak – HB928. It recently passed out of the House Judiciary Committee where it had been held up for more than 18 months. It passed 20-4. Once again, every Democrat voted Yes and every No vote came from Republicans.

Still, it is impressive to note that the majority of Republicans currently support HB928, a definite step in the right direction. Impressive that is until you realize that only ONE Republican supported the much better Democratic bill introduced by Rep. Ed Gainey – HB195. That bill had 24 cosponsors, all of them Democrats but one. It wasn’t punitive enough though for the Republicans. They would only get onboard if the fine was raised by hundreds of dollars and a third strike escalation to misdemeanor.

That’s the typical path for Republicans. They will resist all cannabis reform that is supported by Democrats. They will resist and resist until they can tell that resistance will cost them politically. Then, they support the idea but only if the bills can be watered down and made more punitive or more restrictive.
On the bright side, seeing how Republicans supported industrial hemp, evolved on medical cannabis and evolved now on the decrim-light issue, I can foresee a possibility anyway that they will come around to supporting full legalization and home grows. Eventually. That time is not now though.
Currently, zero Republicans in the entire Pa. legislature support legalizing cannabis!

Say what? How many Republicans support full legalization of cannabis?

Zero. Zip. Nada. None. Not a damn one of them.

Okay, I think we can count on two Republicans who would vote Yes although neither one of them will say so publicly, afraid of their Republican leadership and their Republican constituents.

Zero Republicans in the House support legalization and zero Republicans support legalization in the senate. Zero Republicans have signed on as cosponsors to legalization bills and zero Republicans have publicly supported legalization. ALL of our support comes from Democrats and it is absolutely real. Pa. Dems have a record of delivering for us.

The Republican candidate for governor is Scott Wagner. He is VEHEMENTLY opposed to full legalization of cannabis and won’t even say he supports decrim, only that he is “open to considering it”. He says that if a legalization bill hits his desk he would veto it without consideration.

Wagner would be disastrous to our cause because it wouldn’t only be just him. He would bring in an entire new administration and this man who is so hostile to cannabis legalization would be surrounded by hardcore prohibitionists at all levels. The current mmj program would be handed over to the right-wingers. Is that what we want to happen? We can’t and we must not let that happen.
Republicans control everything in Harrisburg.

Right now the Republicans have a super-majority in the state senate. They have an overwhelming majority in the state house. They control every single committee. They control the entire legislative agenda. They decide which bills get considered, which bills die, which get passed and which bills fail. None of them support legalization now and if Scott Wagner is elected they will stay hardened in their opposition for possibly the next eight long years. We can’t take that chance.

Some of you might hate Democrats. Keep in mind that if you live in a gerrymandered district usually won by Republicans you can rest assured that your representative is safe. It’s tough to root out incumbents.

Ninety percent of all incumbents win, so most Republicans and most Democrats are safe. The Republicans have such an overwhelming advantage that voting Democrat is not going to magically transform the entire political landscape. The Republicans are still going to control the state legislature next year. Electing a few more Democrats is not going to cause some kind of socialist revolution but it will give us a slightly better chance at legalization.

The election is next Tuesday, November 6. Make sure you get out and vote. If cannabis legalization is your most important issue we recommend voting straight Democrat. If other issues are more important to you, well, then vote your conscience but know you are voting to stick daggers into the legalization movement.

In one week the election will be over and we will have to work with whoever wins. We will conduct our political campaign in a completely non-partisan fashion because we MUST convince Republicans to support legalization or we have no chance. Currently we have zero Republicans onboard for legalization. That has to change. In the meantime, vote Democrat if you want even half a chance.

~Les Stark, Executive Director, KCC
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