It’s no secret that the American War on Drugs has imprisoned millions of innocent cannabis consumers, a disproportionate percentage of which are minorities. From health-threatening black market pot to dilapidated schools sorely in need of tax revenue, marijuana prohibition in the United States has taken a heavy toll.
Seventy-nine years of federal-level reefer madness has also, unfortunately, created a political environment that dissuades even the most progressive politicians from openly advocating for cannabis legalization.
Fortunately, Roger Tilton isn’t one of those conformist politicians. The 56-year-old senior financial advisor is the Democratic candidate for senate in New Hampshire’s District 11. His unique campaign platform is centered on the social and economic benefits of fully legal cannabis.
Tilton’s senatorial campaign is so pro-pot that he may be the first mainstream politician in the U.S. to sport a pot leaf on his campaign poster. He is advocating for rational public policy that legalizes, regulates, and taxes cannabis for all uses (and is leveraging the fact that 70 percent of voting adults in his state favor full adult-use legalization).
During an exclusive interview with MERRY JANE, Tilton explained his campaign platform and personal goal of cannabis legalization in New Hampshire.
MERRY JANE: Why is your campaign focusing on cannabis legalization?
Roger Tilton: I think [the government war on drugs] was a ploy to arrest African-Americans and Hispanics in the inner cities. Whites and blacks and Hispanics use cannabis at about the same rate. Yet two to four times as many blacks and Hispanics are locked up for it!
It sounds like your exposure to the legal cannabis market in Seattle when managing your financial clients has given you some concrete examples for dismantling prohibition in New Hampshire.
That’s the beauty of the 50 states—we learn. The states are laboratories. We can pick and choose from what works and what doesn’t...like in Colorado. Personally, I look to the Washington model. Washington did so many things right in the beginning.
What has Washington implemented, in terms of cannabis regulation, that might benefit New Hampshire?
First, it didn’t open [dispensaries and retail outlets] right away. It took more than a year to implement the new system through the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board. Colorado went the other direction. They said, “OK, it’s legal, stores are open.” But they ran into problems, especially with edibles.
Assume that the number of adult-use legal states doubles this fall. How could that help the country forge better economic and health care policy?
Let me answer by saying, “Mr. President, after the election in November, when Maine, Massachusetts, Arizona, Nevada, and California all legalize cannabis—like has been done in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, and D.C.—we’ll have reached a tipping point. Mr. President, please, before you leave office on Jan. 20, deschedule marijuana.”
The case has been proven, especially in California, where they’ve had medical for 20 years. It’s time to deschedule [cannabis] from the narcotics list. It’s not a Schedule I drug. Let’s get real, people!
After the country gets past the proverbial tipping point, how do you think Congress will respond, especially given its staunch opposition to cannabis legalization and research of any form to date?
Well, the beauty of Congress is that all 535 members of the two chambers are politicians. They’ll either twist or bend in the wind. When they see that their constituents are so far ahead of them on the issue, they’ll switch their vote.
If they know they’re going to lose constituents, they’ll have no choice. Even if their actions are totally self-serving….
Exactly! Also, as the older conservative legislators die out, newer, more open-minded politicians will replace them.
What is your primary goal for cannabis legalization in New Hampshire?
I want every New Hampshire resident—regardless of age—to have access to clean, tested, regulated medical marijuana. And I want every adult 21 and over to have access to retail cannabis stores like those enjoyed in Seattle.
To further explore Roger Tilton’s platform or to make a donation—he recommends $4.20—visit his website.