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The Pot Plank and Presidential Politics


The Marijuana Policy Project came out with its report card for 22 presidential candidates and hopefuls this week and the headline is that no one is sticking their neck out very far when it comes to the legalization of marijuana or the loosening of federal pot laws. Admittedly, this is not the biggest issue on anyone’s presidential platform but as more states jump on the bandwagon, voters will be demanding a pot plank as the 2016 race gets underway.

Republican Rand Paul stands out in the crowd for supporting the rights of states to establish marijuana policy and also for being a voice for decriminalization, legalized medical marijuana and access to banks for marijuana businesses. The MPP voter guide sends him to the head of the presidential class with an A-. On the other hand, the MPP gives Republicans Chris Christie and Rick Santorum an F for saying they will enforce federal laws to crack down on states that have charted their own course in legalizing pot.

Democrats Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Lincoln Chafee and Jim Webb are taking a wait and see approach to the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana in Colorado and other states. They get B grades from the MPP. Republican Rick Perry also gets a B for supporting state rights to establish their own policies and working to reduce pot penalties in his home state of Texas.

Republicans Ted Cruz and Carly Fiorina get C+ grades for accepting the right of states to create their own policies despite opposing the legalization of the drug for any kind of use. New York Republican George Pataki, who also opposes legalizing marijuana for all purposes, still gets a C for saying he’ll keep the federal government from interfering with states that vote to legalize pot, as long as it stays away from kids and doesn’t upset neighboring states. Republicans Donald Trump and Lindsay Graham get C’s for supporting only medical marijuana. Republican Bobby Jindal gets a C- for only supporting limited medical marijuana and would be candidate John Kasich gets a C- for not even supporting that.

Continuing the “gateway drug” narrative has earned Democrats Martin O’Malley and Joe Biden a C- and D respectively. Republicans Scott Walker and Ben Carson also get D grades for not giving up on the theory. Florida Republicans Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio and Arkansas Republican Mike Huckabee, who oppose the legalization of marijuana for any purpose, get D’s as well.

According to Marijuana Policy Poject Communications Director Mason Tvert “voters should know which candidates support rolling back prohibition and which ones are fighting to maintain it. People are becoming increasingly wary of the federal government’s role in our nation’s marijuana policy.” Indeed, the disconnect between state and federal laws has been one of the biggest challenges dogging the young industry. “If states are to be our nation’s laboratories of democracy, our next president needs to respect their right to experiment,” Tvert said. “They should be committed to basing marijuana laws on science and evidence instead of ideology and politics.”



On Turning 50

During a recent gathering of neighbors at the local pool my friend Nancy whipped out a spice cake and began to sing “Happy Birthday.”  I was confused.  Whose birthday was it?  Surely not mine.  I was born in August.  She announced to all my friends that we were celebrating the occasion early since I would be working in China when it rolled around.  And then she told everyone that I was turning 50.  I was mortified.  My head fell into my hands.  I felt like I had been outted.   


I have been running from this birthday.  In fact, running as far away as I can.  On my birthday I’ll be so busy working at the Olympics in Beijing I won’t even have time to think about it.  That’s by design.  I don’t want to acknowledge the occasion or be around others who will.  I am in denial.  But why all this angst about turning the page?  I don’t look 50.  I don’t feel or act 50 (but then again what does 50 look or feel or act like?)  Why then is it so hard for me to admit this milestone to myself and others?  Will I be somehow diminished personally and professionally?  Will obstacles get in my way?    


I notice friends dance around the subject.  “Are you celebrating a zero birthday,” Nick said.  Scott gingerly asked me how old I was but couldn’t bring himself to say the “F” word.  I finally said it for him.  Heather, my best friend of 35 years, and I moan about this repeatedly.  Not so long ago we were kids.  How did this happen?  Where did the time go?  When my mother turned 50 I was producing a live television show in Wichita, Kansas.  We called her on the air.  She was stunned.  I wonder if she had the same feeling of being outted that I did.  I’m not sure she ever forgave me.  I guess it’s true what goes around comes around. 


So now that my secret is out, how do I make the best of this?  By being forced to confront it, all of a sudden I am seeing the amazing accomplishments of people my age and beyond.  I am inspired by women like Madonna and Caroline Kennedy who also turn 50 this year.  How about Hillary Clinton?  It’s impossible to ignore what she managed to achieve at age 60.  I see vigorous people who are relevant and worldly and  constantly re-inventing themselves.  They are not aging quietly.  They are exuberant in causes and politics and bring years of experience and wisdom to their families and tasks.  They burst with creativity and energy and laugh heartily.  There is a certain self assuredness when one has loved and lost and lived to tell about it.  The women that I’m meeting and discovering are enlightened and spiritual and forward thinking.   


For the last few years, as I’ve navigated the waters of mid-life, I have been looking back.  It is time to look forward.  There are many opportunities and adventures ahead.  Of course, I need to be realistic.  There will be challenges.  There were no guarantees in the last 50 years and there certainly aren’t any in the next 50 years but it’s time to come out of the closet and embrace this passage.  Sophia Loren said “there is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.”  It took a push to find clarity, so thanks for the birthday gift, Nancy.  

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