Democrats Reject Marijuana Legalization In Party Platform

The document supports decriminalization but stops short of full legalization.

Democratic National Committee delegates voted 105-60 against including marijuana legalization in the party platform on Monday.

The draft version of the platform supports decriminalizing marijuana use and legalizing medical marijuana, adding that it should be left up to the states “to make their own decisions about recreational use.”

The platform was unlikely to ever endorse full legalization, since Joe Biden, the presumptive nominee, does not back the policy. He supports federal decriminalization, which would take away incarceration for possession.

But Dennis Obduskey, a delegate who introduced the legalization amendment during the meeting of the DNC’s platform committee, noted that the current document is a step back from the 2016 platform, which supported “providing a reasoned pathway for future legalization.”

Marijuana legalization will not be part of the Democratic Party platform in 2020.
Marijuana legalization will not be part of the Democratic Party platform in 2020.
Serhii Moiseiev/Getty Images

Both Obduskey and Iowa County Supervisor Stacey Walker, who served as a member of the joint Biden-Bernie Sanders criminal justice task force, argued that the current federal laws disproportionately affect Black people.

“I’m imploring all of you to approach this with an open mind and heart. Do something big here,” Walker said. “Take one small but meaningful step toward changing the course of history. If my Black life matters to you, you will consider this amendment. We want to get in good trouble today, and I urge you to do the right thing and support it.”

A 15-person panel, including backers of both Biden and Sanders, initially put together the 80-page platform. Many of the planks came directly from the recommendations of the joint policy task forces the two teams put together this summer as an effort to show a united front against President Donald Trump.

On Monday, the official platform committee of about 180 delegates met virtually to further make changes to the document. The next step is for the nearly 4,000 members of the DNC to vote by mail on whether to ratify it ahead of next month’s national convention.

Public support for marijuana legalization has steadily risen, with about 66% of Americans backing it. It’s even more popular with Democrats (76%) and is legal in 11 states plus the District of Columbia.

John Fetterman, the progressive lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania, was shocked last week when he saw that the draft platform didn’t back legalization, as he expressed on Twitter.

DNC delegates also overwhelmingly opposed an amendment backing “Medicare for All,” the health care system pushed by Sanders allies. At least 600 delegates have pledged to oppose the party platform if it doesn’t include support for the policy, although that won’t be enough members to block ratification.

In the initial drafting process, however, Sanders allies did get a nod to Medicare for All into the platform, which they considered a victory. It states that the “party welcomes advocates who want to build on and strengthen the Affordable Care Act and those who support a Medicare for All approach; all are critical to ensuring that health care is a human right.”

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