Welcome the 2014 MJINews Power Politicians. These are the 10 politicians who affect legislation for the legal marijuana industry, spanning federal, state and municipal jurisdictions. These politicians wield enough power to actually influence, whether positively or negatively, legalization’s investment landscape. This list is alphabetical.
U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenaeur (D-Ore.)
As representative of Oregon’s 3rd district, Blumenauer is promoting a legislative framework that will revise the federal government’s policy on marijuana. With U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Blumenauer has co-authored “The Path Forward: Rethinking Federal Marijuana Policy.” During the 113th Congress, Blumenaeur joined Polis to launch the Sensible Drug Policy Working Group for members of congress and staff to address drug policy reform. Blumenauer also sponsored and co-sponsored several drug policy reform bills.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D)
As a major municipal figure and former White House chief of staff to President Barack Obama, Emanuel’s actions regarding marijuana have the potential to influence other municipalities across the nation. In 2012, he backed a decriminalization law in Chicago, but a May 2014 Roosevelt University study criticized the Chicago police for being prone to arrest those with small amounts of the drug instead of ticketing them. If Emanuel wins re-election on February 24, 2015, it will be interesting to see how well his administration works with Illinois’ rollout of its Medical Marijuana Pilot Program in spring 2015.
U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.)
As chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Goodlatte has to be considered a power figure when marijuana is discussed. He is an unrelenting salesman of the War on Drugs in general, and as to marijuana has distinguished himself by arguing that the Obama administration should not allow states to step out of line and legalize it. Unfortunately, since he does chair a key committee (and will likely continue to chair it after the election), he can stand in the way of any effort to move in the other direction on Capitol Hill, any effort to regularize federal-state relations in the direction of legalization.
Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.)
Colorado’s gubernatorial candidate of the Democratic Party is incumbent John Hickenlooper. As Colorado became the first state to legalize recreational marijuana, Hickenlooper became an unwilling participant in the industry. His position and political power give him the ability to influence other politicians nationally and the future of legal marijuana.
U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)
As chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Leahy is the anti-Goodlatte. He does clearly want to move toward a federal endorsement of the prerogative of the states to mellow out as to marijuana policy. Unfortunately, it is easier to preserve a logjam than to break it, so Leahy’s job is more difficult than Goodlatte’s.
U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.)
In an interview with Talking Points Memo on October 22, 2014, Merkley revealed that on Election Day he intends to vote for Measure 91, which would legalize recreational marijuana for people 21 and older in Oregon. However, Courtney Warner Crowell, Merkley’s deputy communications director, clarified with Reuters that Merkley has not officially endorsed Measure 91, but rather has simply commented that he will vote for it. Such political semantics may be necessary for Merkley’s re-election campaign, but Merkley voting for Measure 91 speaks loud and clear.
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.)
As the senior U.S. Senator from Washington, one of the first two states to legalize the sale of recreational marijuana to adults, Murray was one of four Senators to sign a letter to the White House Chief of Staff and the U.S. Attorney General in July 2014 asking that the administration support Washington, and Colorado, in their efforts to “establish a successful regulatory framework” so their citizens will not face “uncertainty and risk … including the potential for selective enforcement actions and prosecution.”
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.)
At a luncheon in Marin County in August 2014, Gavin Newsom, the Lt. Governor of California, said that he will back a marijuana legalization initiative in the state, “if it is the right initiative.” Of course that language gives him some wiggle room going forward, but it constitutes a much more supportive message than voters (or potential investors) are getting from Gov. Jerry Brown.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)
Rand Paul is the son of former Congressman Ron Paul (R-Tx), a two-time candidate for the Presidential nomination of the Republican Party and long-time libertarian gadfly. Rand seems to have positioned himself as more of a party insider than his father ever cared to be. In that context, his voice may be even more important than his father’s would have been, as he calls for the decriminalization of marijuana.
U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.)
Represents the 2nd Congressional District in Colorado (the north central part of the state). He seeks legislation that will treat marijuana for federal purposes as akin to alcohol or cigarettes, and that will free states to decide whether it is illegal and/or criminal within their borders. For those from such states as Colorado, he says, “there’s an enormous reason to have the federal law catch up.”