Championing The Political Arena: Four Politicians Brave the Cannabis Legalization Front Lines

A newly elected administration is taking the reins for the next four years (at least). While predicting President Trump’s next move would be nothing short of a miracle, it appears the cannabis legalization fight is going to be prolonged.

With an uphill battle facing advocates in Washington D.C., the importance of state and local representatives to push for improvement on existing legalization laws has become imperative. These government leaders would do best to showcase cannabis’ ability to operate and thrive under regulatory requirements, reduce prison populations through decriminalization and coexist successfully with established industries.

We’ve chosen representatives and advocates across the country who understand that legal cannabis is under a microscope, and are pushing for improvements in their state to reveal that legalization produces positive outcomes.

Andrew Freedman

Colorado’s Cannabis Czar

Being first in anything is never easy. The same theory applies to rolling out the United States’ first legal cannabis market. Something Andrew Freedman was tasked with when becoming Colorado’s Director of Marijuana Coordination.

The job, which was designed to be a three-year role to help implementation, is coming to an end. All responsibilities will be shifted to Colorado’s Department of Revenue, which is fitting for an industry that crossed the one billion dollar mark in revenue in the first ten months of 2016.

For Freedman, it’s the perfect time to look back at the impact he’s had. “It’s not perfect,” Freedman said in an interview with DOPE Magazine, “There is still work to be done around home grow regulations, but I’m happy with what we’ve accomplished here.”

The sun is not setting for Freedman, either. The Boston Globe recently reported that Freedman is being considered to implement Massachusetts’ newly passed recreational marijuana law. While Colorado is certainly a success for Freedman, it would appear his mark on the movement is far from over.

Oregon State Representative Ann Lininger 

The Cannabis Crusader

In a country crippled by political polarization, one state representative dares to reach across the aisle and create meaningful, lasting initiatives in the cannabis industry. If that sounds a lot like a super-hero movie trailer, it should. Oregon State Representative Ann Lininger is nothing short of a cannabis super hero.

Lininger, who co-chairs Oregon’s Joint Marijuana Legalization Committee, performed the impossible by passing several initiatives through the bi-partisan committee (comprised of six Democrats and four Republicans) without a single “no” vote. She credits her success on a “shared willingness to compromise,” and the committee’s priorities of “creating jobs, respecting the will of voters, and curbing the illegal market, [rather] than political bickering.”

Add humility to her superpowers.

Those working in Oregon’s marijuana market will be quick to decry regulatory bottlenecks that have stifled growth of marijuana companies in the state. To that, Lininger has a plan, “I think we need to streamline and unify our regulatory system. If we move some regulatory authority away from our Oregon Health Authority and into the OLCC, we need to do it in a way that protects the needs of patients.”

Protecting patients’ access, shifting criminal laws of marijuana to match alcohol, streamlining regulation, building jobs and simply getting sh*t done. All of the superpowers of Oregon Representative Ann Lininger, The Cannabis Crusader.

Art by Nico Lisa

Mayor Don Stevens

The Government Guinea Pig

North Bonneville, Washington has received plenty of headlines over the past few years. The city gained national notoriety by becoming the first city to open a government-owned marijuana dispensary, The Cannabis Corner.

While most politicians, even in legal states, are hesitant to bring marijuana businesses into their district, Don Stevens did the exact opposite. With the city struggling to ‘keep the lights on’ in 2013, Mayor Stevens pushed the city to open a dispensary for an additional source of revenue.

Now, two years after opening its doors, The Cannabis Corner has netted upwards of $2.2 million in revenue. With all store profits going to updating the local playground, paying law enforcement and other expenditures for the city.

Stevens is a lot more than a politician supporting marijuana legalization; he is showcasing how marijuana and government can work hand-in-hand, while benefiting in ways we didn’t believe were possible. While reception for the store has been generally positive, Stevens say the industry is still in “education mode.”

Moving forward, Mayor Stevens aims to bring back medical patients into the fold of legal marijuana in Washington. The inability to have a home grow, and the lack of tax breaks for medical patients is a major concern for a budding industry. Nevertheless, Washington marijuana is full steam ahead, and Stevens is the man to lead the charge.

Texas State Senator José Menéndez

Fighting for The Molecules

After ending his tenure in the Texas House of Representatives by passing one of the state’s largest mental health programs for Veterans, Senator Menéndez is now pushing to expand the state’s treatment options.

“Twenty eight states have already recognized the medical benefits of cannabis…” he said, smiling at the press.

In early December, Menéndez filed a bill in the Texas State Senate pushing access to medical marijuana in Texas. In his address to the media, Menéndez, flanked by veterans, doctors and families, described his desire to help the “medical refugees” of Texas. People who, in their search for proper medicine, move to New Mexico or Colorado to find proper access.

Menéndez lamented the stigmatization and personification of, “just another set of molecules.” Calling for the removal of CBD and THC caps, he claimed, “doctors, not politicians, should recommend the proper medicine to Texas patients.”

It still remains unclear whether the bill will gain any traction. There are plenty of hurdles lying in wait before becoming law. However, Senator Menéndez remains optimistic.

“Twenty eight states have already recognized the medical benefits of cannabis,” he said, smiling at the press, “including liberal strongholds like Arkansas, Alaska, North Dakota and Montana…it’s time for Texas to step up to the plate.”

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