Steph Sherer, Huffington Post (Op-Ed)
As the November 4th midterm elections approach, everyone interested in marijuana policy is looking at various voter initiatives across the country: legal adult use of marijuana in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, D.C., and a robust medical cannabis law in Florida. But as interesting as it is to see which parts of the country will be the next to reform their marijuana laws, the reality is that every candidate on every ballot represents a chance to vote on medical marijuana.
Every session of Congress and each state legislature marks a chance to bring America’s public policy more in line with public opinion and medical science. As much as 85 percent of voters nationwide have expressed support for legal access to cannabis when a doctor recommends it, with physicians and researchers expressing a similar consensus on its efficacy in safely treating a remarkably broad range of serious medical conditions. Today, the only real barriers to sensible medical cannabis policy are the lawmakers themselves.
Within the last year, fourteen states have legalized medical cannabis in one or more of its forms. Earlier this year, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a measure that would prevent the DOJ from interfering with state marijuana laws and another preventing the US Treasury from going after state-compliant medical cannabis business. Each of the measures were passed by politicians not voter referendum. To date, 34 states and the District of Columbia have passed some kind of legislation recognizing the benefits of medical cannabis only 11 of these laws were passed by voter initiative and all of them have been further defined by state legislation.
Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the nation’s leading advocacy group advancing medical cannabis policy, has launched a campaign to educate the public and help voters choose the candidates who best represent their interests. The multi-pronged campaign includes television and web ads, surveys distributed to candidates to gauge their support or opposition to sensible cannabis regulations, and a new website, VoteMedicalMarijuana.org, where voters can see the records of incumbents and the positions of candidates.
ASA is working to ensure that elected officials overseeing medical marijuana policy know there is an active, voting constituency that wants to be involved in developing policy that will directly affect them. The launch of VoteMedicalMarijuana.org established the infrastructure for the formation of such a constituency. Those interested in medical marijuana policy now have a clearly defined reason to vote in every election. Until now, no one has tied elected officials to their voting records on medical marijuana and made it a central issue in local, state, and federal elections. VoteMedicalMarijuana.org gives voters a new criterion with which to evaluate candidates on this issue: their voting records and surveys from candidates.
New ads will be released in Washington State this Friday that will help educate voters on why their vote matters and how to find out where candidates stand on the issue. The ads will run through Election Day. The first Vote Medical Marijuana TV ads run earlier this year helped inform the public on votes taken by certain Members of Congress on measures that would affect medical cannabis patients.
VoteMedicalMarijuana.org also features a new Election Center that will provide concerned voters with key information on the midterm elections. For example, constituents can find their elected officials’ answers to ASA’s medical cannabis survey questions. If any elected officials have not yet responded, voters can tweet the survey to them directly from the site.
ASA also hosted a Google Hangout, that covered how voters can effectively use VoteMedicalMarijuana.org to become informed voters and how the election outcomes can affect patients, with a focus on measures in California, Florida and Washington State.
I will be on the ground in Florida in the days leading up to the election to help with Get Out the Vote efforts and support for the historic medical marijuana vote Yes on Measure 2. And while initiatives are exciting, () it’s what comes after the November 4th elections that matters most. Patients will be depending on their elected officials from the halls of Congress, to their state house to their city hall to represent them on medical marijuana policy. With nearly 70 percent of the population now living in states that have adopted a medical marijuana law in some form, there will be thousands of politicians engaging in medical marijuana policy in 2015. This election, make sure your interest are being addressed.