If you live in Oregon or New Jersey and enjoy cannabis, today might be a good day to thank your governor.
The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) released its 2018 Gubernatorial Scorecard this week, assigning grades from “A” through “F” to each state’s governors. The grades are based solely upon the governors’ comments and voting records in regard to marijuana policy.
New Jersey’s Phil Murphy and Oregon’s Kate Brown. Murphy has made it a priority to upgrade this state’s inferior medical marijuana program which was throttled by previous Gov. Chris Christie, a longtime thorn in the side of cannabis reformers. Oregon’s recreational marijuana laws are considered the most progressive in the nation.
Public opinion in support of marijuana law reform, including adult use legalization, is at an all-time high. Nonetheless, few federal lawmakers are espousing views on cannabis policy that comport with those of the majority of their constituents, according to NORML’s statement. As a result, most legislative activity specific to marijuana policy takes place at the state level. America’s governors are our nation’s most powerful state-elected officials and they often play a key role in this ongoing legislative debate.
Among the findings of the scorecard:
- Twenty-four governors received a passing grade of ‘C’ or higher (14 Democrats, 9 Republicans, and 1 Independent)
- Of these, only two governors, both Democrats, received an ‘A’ grade
- Fifteen governors received a ‘B’ grade (9 Democrats, 5 Republicans, and 1 Independent)
- Seven governors received a ‘C’ grade (4 Republicans and 3 Democrats)
- Nineteen governors received a ‘D’ grade (18 Republicans and 1 Democrat)
- Four governors received a failing ‘F’ grade (All Republicans)
- Three governors received no grade because of insufficient data
- Of the 31 Republican governors receiving a letter grade, only nine of them received a passing grade of ‘C’ or higher (34 percent)
- Of the 15 Democratic US governors receiving a letter grade, 14 of them received a passing grade of ‘C’ or higher (93 percent)
“While federal officials tend to receive most of the scrutiny in the fight for marijuana law reform, it is not just members of Congress who deserve our attention,” said NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri. “In fact, with the majority of marijuana-related campaigns decided on the state level, it is our nation’s governors who often hold the key to our success or failure.”
The analysis demonstrates that voters’ views on marijuana policy are more progressive than the views held by the highest elected officials in their states – only 48 percent of whom received a passing grade from NORML. For example, while 64 percent of Americans support legalizing the use and sale of cannabis for adults, only two governors are public in their support of this position. Governors overall are also far less supportive of legislation to legalize the medical use of cannabis than are their constituents – more than 90 percent of whom back these type of reform measures.
Also evident is that gubernatorial support for marijuana law reform often falls upon partisan lines. This partisanship lies largely in contrast to voters’ sentiments, as the public tends to view many aspects of marijuana law reform, such as the regulation of medicinal cannabis, as non-partisan issues. (For example, according to 2017 Quinnipiac polling, 90 percent of Republicans, 95 percent of Democrats, and 96 percent of Independents favor “allowing adults to legally use marijuana for medical purposes.”)
“Voters need to push current governors and 2018 gubernatorial candidates to take a proactive and positive stance on marijuana policy,” Altieri said. “Constituents must let their governors know that holding positions on marijuana legalization that are of step with the will of state voters will cost them at the ballot box, and that embracing sensible reform policies will increase their support among voters.”
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Altieri provided an example of how voting matters. “Look to New Jersey as an example. The exit of anti-drug zealot Chris Christie and the election of pro-legalization Phil Murphy has changed the entire tenor of the debate. Already, the state is moving to expand and reinforce their long-suffering medical marijuana program and his very election catapulted the topic of full legalization to the top of this year’s legislative priorities list.”
Read NORML’s full report here.