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Articles > The Biggest Winner of Tuesday’s Elections? Cannabis!

The Biggest Winner of Tuesday’s Elections? Cannabis!
November 10, 2017

Political Analyst – Derek Thomas

Yesterday, two states voted for new governors. Both New Jersey and Virginia hosted incredibly ground-breaking and astounding gubernatorial elections and whose campaigns show the continued shift in American sentiment in favor of marijuana.

Chris Christie, the current and soon-to-be-former governor of New Jersey, is a well-known prohibitionist who actually once said marijuana is for “crazy liberals who want to poison our kids.” Needless to say, New Jersey has been lagging behind other states rapidly shifting marijuana legislation. While they do have a sub-par version of medical marijuana, Chris Christie’s arm was basically tied into signing it due to the vastly overwhelming majority of supporters.

But Chris Christie’s popularity saw such an incredible fall that he now holds a few inglorious titles like New Jersey’s least popular Governor ever and least-popular governor in the United States. After the bridge-gate scandal, his embarrassing run at the presidency, and then his support-of-Donald-Trump-followed-by-swift-abandonment by Donald Trump, he never regained his footing. Although it’s easy to argue that he was failing long before as many constituents were not happy with economic and social conditions in New Jersey during Chris Christie’s reign.

His republican replacement, Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno, also opposes legalization but does support (supposedly) decriminalizing and expanding the state’s current medical cannabis law.

But alas, it was underdog democratic challenger Phil Murphy that won the gubernatorial race in New Jersey. And Phil Murphy is an outspoken and ardent supporter of cannabis. In fact, when he won the state democratic primaries in June, he gave an acceptance speech where he said “The criminalization of marijuana has only served to clog our courts and cloud people’s futures, so we will legalize marijuana,” he said. “And while there are financial benefits, this is overwhelmingly about doing what is right and just.”

And it’s not just an occasional line in a speech where Murphy throws haymakers at marijuana prohibitionists. On his campaign website, in a gubernatorial candidate’s forum, in the general election debate, and in his tweets he has been a consistent and reasonable voice in marijuana’s corner.

According to Forbes, it is possible that New Jersey will be the first state in the country to legalize marijuana through an act of its legislature, as opposed to by voters through a ballot measure

Congratulations to the Garden State – it just got a little greener!

And then marijuana enthusiasts got more good news out of Virginia. While it may not be as outright transformative as New Jersey’s, it is certainly a shift in a great direction.

Current Lieutenant Governor and soon-to-be Governor Ralph Northram, supports decriminalizing marijuana and expanding medical cannabis access. Like his New Jersey counterparts, he has also made marijuana a center piece of his campaign, and often describes the issue in terms of racial justice.

Early this year Northram wrote in a blog post that “We need to change sentencing laws that disproportionately hurt people of color. One of the best ways to do this is to decriminalize marijuana, African Americans are 2.8 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession in Virginia. The Commonwealth spends more than $67 million on marijuana enforcement — money that could be better spent on rehabilitation.”

Northram has quite a bit of credibility on the subject too. As a long-time practicing physician stated on his website that “increasingly convinced by the data showing potential health benefits of marijuana, such as pain relief, drug-resistant epilepsy, and treatment for PTSD. By decriminalizing it, our researchers can better study the plant so doctors can more effectively prescribe drugs made from it.”

In fact, Northram has come to show himself as an appreciator of all elements of cannabis and all concerns. He told the Huffington Post that he supports federal re-scheduling and he also supports hemp cultivation for industrial use. “A Northam administration will support new efforts to bring Virginia products to market, including industrial hemp processing,” his campaign website says.

At the start of the campaign, Northram’s republican contender Ed Gillespie wasn’t on record in favor of any changes to marijuana laws. But Northam’s loud and proud reform advocacy, and the positive response it was generating, influenced the Republican to change his stance on the issue.

Last month Gillespie rolled out a criminal justice reform plan that includes a “Three Strikes and You’re In” policy that would allow people arrested for marijuana possession to avoid criminal charges until their third police encounter.

Too little, too late, Ed.

All in all, it was a great election night for marijuana. New Jersey is a populous state and has economic and cultural influence on other North-eastern states around it. Its expected legalization under Murphy will continue the shifting tide towards legalization in a big way.  Virginia, typically considered a conservative state, will also have influence on other typically conservative states – a much needed reprieve for those stuck in red states yearning for legislative change.

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