November 30, 2020
New Orleans The years pass by, and some things in fact do change. In the early 1970s, when developing staff policies as the organization grew, there was a somewhat notorious addition, showing up fourth on the list: “That’s Why They Call it Dope.”
The rule was unambiguous. You could do anything you wanted outside of work, but if you were caught with marijuana and arrested, you would be terminated. ACORN operated in the public arena in a highly conservative state, Arkansas, so despite the lure and attraction of the youth culture for many of the young organizers, and the sweeping changes of the sixties, including around drugs, it was illegal, plain and simple. The organization was a membership organization, and the membership and the general public were skeptical about the claims and associations around marijuana. We were unwilling to take the heat and dilute the power of our demands or the ability of the organization to represent its membership. An individual could choose to be an organizer or could smoke weed, but not both. We followed the dicta that those who would be most radical, must appear most conservative.
Times change over fifty years! We’re down to only six states where marijuana is totally illegal: Idaho, Wyoming, Kansas, Tennessee, Alabama, and South Carolina. There are fifteen states where medical and recreational use is legal, including South Dakota, Maine, and Montana. The rest are a mixed bag of medical approval and decriminalization. Nonetheless using or holding marijuana is still a crime at the federal level, and there’s no indication that this is likely to change, even though polling indicates support for legalization is now at 69%, including 49% of Republicans. Neighboring countries, both Canada and Mexico, have now legalized. The US House of Representatives, controlled by Democrats, has voted in favor, but the Republican controlled Senate has dug in to oppose, making this a partisan issue.
Personally, I took a couple of drags in my freshman year in college, and that’s my whole story. I often joke that I take risk in my work, but not with my work! Nonetheless, if I were managing pain, I would be first in line at the dispensary with my prescription.
A friend and colleague, responding to a call for action items for the incoming Biden Administration, added this item to his list in a late entry:
…legalize marijuana nationally. No other issue brings together rural and urban, hipster and redneck better. We can make the Republicans look like buzzkills. It could galvanize the alienated and socially isolated low participation apoliticals who powered Trump’s rise. It may even help lessened to opioid crisis. Think about it…
He might be right. Celinda Lake, the pollster, another friend and colleague, told Politico,
I think it’s seen as a Democratic issue and a libertarian issue. But real voters, Republican real voters, are in favor of it, too.
It’s not my issue, but it may be an issue whose time has finally come. And, if not, it’s an issue where the outcome is now certain, and it’s just a matter of time.