Candidates for the First Time in Congress Running on a Pro-Pot Agenda

With a few notable exceptions, it’s no secret that Democrats in Congress have taken the lead on the path to federal cannabis legalization. The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act, a bill to legalize and regulate cannabis at the federal level, was passed by the Democratic-majority House of Representatives in 2020, but it did not receive Senate support.

Democrats in the House of Representatives have also pushed for cannabis reform, with New York Senator Chuck Schumer introducing a draft measure last year and planning to bring it formally this spring.

Even with the party’s tiny majority in both chambers of Congress, meaningful movement on cannabis legislation is far from certain, despite the leadership of key Democratic members. With dozens of Democrats, including Colorado’s cannabis-friendly Representative Earl Perlmutter, stating their intention to not run for re-election this year, the timing is perfect for a fresh crop of pro-pot politicians to enter the race.

Charlie Thompson, a Democrat, is running for Congress in Alabama’s fifth congressional district, which runs along the Tennessee state boundary. If elected, he intends to push for federal cannabis legalization as well as other topics such as voting rights, immigration reform, climate change mitigation, and budget balance. He was first exposed to cannabis when he was a child, and he freely admits that he began selling cannabis and other controlled narcotics in middle school.

In an interview, Thompson claimed, “I grew up on the streets, you know, slingin’ dope,” Thompson said in an interview. “I started that way and I saw that people actually use it for self-medication. I saw that, because of our system, people are looking for it for pain relief, for their daily ailments that they can’t get health care for because they can’t afford it.”

“I don’t want to put taxes on it for a certain amount of time because what I want to do is make the price low enough that the street dealers can’t compete with the legal dealers,” Thompson said. Thompson believes that cannabis should be legalized in a way that protects newly legal operators and gives them a chance to survive in an environment with entrenched illicit competition.

Thompson claims that legalizing marijuana will have a good impact on the country on multiple levels. With a continuous supply of legal cannabis in the United States, demand for weed imported by narcotics gangs will plummet. The cartels’ threat to residents in cannabis-producing regions will reduce as their revenue and power declines, making communities safer and reducing illegal immigration.

“A lot of the people that are crossing the border are crossing strictly because they’re scared to be there anymore,” he maintains. “They’re coming as refugees, basically. If their country wasn’t so bad, they wouldn’t come here. So it kills multiple birds with one stone if you do it right.”

Thompson will face his first test with voters in Alabama’s 5th congressional district on May 24, when he, a half-dozen Republicans, and one fellow Democrat will compete for a slot on the November general election ballot. Thompson, though, is already focusing on defeating the Republican candidates in a conservative area formerly represented by retiring Republican Representative Mo Brooks. It’s a conflict, he claims, that could have long-term consequences for our democracy.

“The six Republicans that are running this area against me, have all openly stated if they win, they’re going to try to get Donald Trump as the Speaker of the House,” he explained. “And their intention is to impeach Biden and Harris and usurp power. And I’m not going to allow my country to go down the road of an authoritarian dictatorship.”

Jackie McGowan is a candidate for Congress in Illinois.

Jackie McGowan is running for the House seat in northwestern Illinois’ 17th congressional district, where fellow Democrat Cheri Bustos has decided not to fight for re-election after five terms in Congress. McGowan recently returned to Illinois from California, where she worked as a cannabis business consultant and campaigned as a Democratic back-up candidate in the Republican-led recall effort against Gov. Gavin Newsom last year, which failed. McGowan, like Thompson, was exposed to cannabis at a young age.

“I’m running for Congress because I became a cannabis advocate at the age of 8. And I realized at a young age, even though I still believed in Santa Claus, that my mom was not beaten as severely as she was when my dad drank alcohol as she was when my dad smoked weed,” she revealed in a telephone interview. “So, at the age of 8, when I would smell that funny smell running through my house, I knew that my mom wasn’t going to get beaten that night.”

Unlike Alabama, where lawmakers authorized only a restricted medicinal cannabis program last year, Illinois has legalized recreational marijuana and has a thriving adult-use cannabis sector. McGowan is returning to Illinois, where she has hundreds of relatives and worked in the financial industry, to campaign for legalization on a national level, stating, “My roots are here in Illinois.”

McGowan believes her time in California, the world’s largest legal cannabis market, provided her with invaluable insight into the complexities of regulating legal marijuana. Despite reform pledges, many regulated cannabis businesses in California are floundering because to hefty taxation and widespread competition from illegal enterprises. She is also dedicated about ensuring that the mistakes made in her former state’s cannabis reform are not duplicated at the federal level.

McGowan said, “I watched and I had a first-hand experience, a front-row seat, to how California botched up legalization for adult use–at first for medicinal, and then for adult use purposes.” “I’m not going to sit here and wait for the federal government to muck it up as badly as California has.”

McGowan understands that federal cannabis reform is not the only issue facing our nation’s leaders, despite making it a central theme of her first campaign for the House. “Small companies are the economic motor that keeps this country alive,” she says, referring to agriculture and other essential Democratic principles such as healthcare and jobs, particularly those given by independent entrepreneurs.

The key to assisting small businesses is to reduce the obstacles provided by regulation and bureaucracy, a lesson she claims she learned all too well in California. McGowan feels that the solution is for lawmakers to be aware of the regulatory load they impose on small enterprises.

“Anytime we are raising regulations in one way, we have to lower them in another way” she says.

McGowan believes that the industry and activists should focus less on winning over legislators and more on boosting the political ambitions and aims of people who are already passionate about reform, based on her unique perspective on legalizing and regulating cannabis. The road to full legalization and acceptance will be easy to traverse if devoted proponents are in positions of power.

Of course, not every passenger on that journey with personal cannabis experience will be wearing the Democratic Party’s blue colors. Nancy Mace, a first-term Republican representative from South Carolina, is one notable exception. She introduced the States Reform Act in November, a bill to legalize cannabis that is less extensive (and, some argue, more likely to pass) than the MORE Act.

After introducing the bill, Mace stated that cannabis had helped her turn her life around after being raped by a classmate when she was 16 years old. She dropped out of high school and got a job at a Waffle House because she was suffering from anxiety and sadness. She went on to become the first female cadet to graduate from the famous military institution the Citadel after discovering that cannabis helped her more than prescribed medications. Now a member of the House of Representatives, McGowan sees Mace as a likely ally if she wins a seat this fall.

“The cannabis industry needs to start thinking outside the box and stop doing what it’s always done. And it needs to stop supporting career politicians and expecting to mold them into the industry leaders that we want them to be,” McGowan said emphatically. “We need to start putting our own people in those seats, both Republican and Democrat.”

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1 comment

  1. September 13, 2022 at 9:33 am
    Mark

    Thanks for your blog, nice to read. Do not stop.

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