Massachusetts Representative Joe Kennedy III, chosen by the Democrats to respond to Donald Trump’s previous State of the Union address, has been seen as a rising star of the Democratic Party and a potential presidential candidate in the future. While the last name Kennedy automatically increases your clout within Democratic circles, Kennedy’s opposition to cannabis legalization became a real liability, especially after his home state voted to end prohibition.
Today, the thirty-eight-year-old Kennedy put a major obstacle to his political rise to bed, with an op-ed calling for cannabis to be descheduled at the federal level, completely removed from the list of federally controlled substances. Probably not coincidentally, the Massachusetts rep announced his change of heart on the day that the first licensed and regulated cannabis sales began in his home state. In his op-ed “It’s time to legalize marijuana at the federal level” for the health-oriented website STAT, Representative Kennedy lays out his reasons for evolving on cannabis:
I’ve read, I’ve researched, I’ve had countless conversations with people on both sides. One thing is clear to me: Our federal policy on marijuana is badly broken, benefiting neither the elderly man suffering from cancer whom marijuana may help nor the young woman prone to substance use disorder whom it may harm. The patchwork of inconsistent state laws compounds the dysfunction. Our federal government has ceded its responsibility — and authority — to thoughtfully regulate marijuana.
This needs to change. Given the rapid pace of state-level legalization and liberalization, I believe we must implement strong, clear, and fair federal guidelines. To do that requires us to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and legalize it at the federal level.
Legalization would restore the federal government’s ability to regulate a powerful new industry thoroughly and thoughtfully. It would allow us to set packaging and advertising rules, so marketing can’t target kids. It would help set labeling requirements and quality standards, so consumers know exactly what they’re buying. It would ensure that we can dedicate funding to encourage safe use and spread awareness about the risks of impaired driving. And it would create tax revenue for research on mental health effects, safe prescription drugs, and a reliable roadside test.
Representative Kennedy following in the footsteps of California Senator Dianne Feinstein by turning from an anti-marijuana Democrat into a supporter of legalization demonstrates the remarkable political power of the cannabis community. Once the butt of jokes, the cannabis community has clearly gone mainstream. Okay, we still suffer through many ridiculous jokes, but now we are making our own inside jokes from positions of power. Reefer Madness prohibitionists are upset today as they lost a rising Democratic star to hang their hat on, but now, like the walls of prohibition itself, their support is crumbling while 2/3 of Americans support legalizing cannabis and elected officials are scrambling to join our growing movement.
The best place to learn the latest information and network with top investors, entrepreneurs, and advocates is the International Cannabis Business Conference in San Francisco this February 7-8, 2019. To save money and secure your spot at this expected-to-sell-out event, purchase your early-bird tickets by January 18th. After San Francisco, the ICBC will be heading to Barcelona, Spain, on March 14th and then returning to Berlin, Germany from March 31st to April 2nd. Stay tuned for more announcements regarding future locales.