The long-needed reform of America's draconian drug prohibition laws has largely been a partisan issue, with many Democrats supporting reform and Republicans remaining entrenched in opposition. But according to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), a growing number of Republicans are starting to see the logic behind legalization and decriminalization.
At a recent virtual town hall conducted with Congressional cannabis champion Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), AOC discussed the growing bipartisan support for nationwide drug reform. As an example, the Congresswoman cited the fact that the House approved her amendment to divert $5 million in funding from the Drug Enforcement Administration to an opioid treatment program without opposition.
“That’s defund before defund became a widespread demand that we heard this year — and Republicans supported it,” Ocasio-Cortez said at the event, according to Marijuana Moment. “So there are some areas where you can find common ground.”
“Part of why we are fighting so hard to eliminate the failed prohibition on cannabis is because that’s been a tool that’s been used against people of color in particular that has horrific consequences and helps fuel that prison pipeline that has wreaked such havoc on our communities,” Blumenauer added.
Ocasio-Cortez said that she has seen support for drug prohibition reforms grow among both Republican and Democratic lawmakers since she took office in 2018. “We’ve been able to propose solutions on a wide spectrum towards decriminalization, towards legalization, and that is increasingly becoming a position that more Republicans are amenable to,” she explained.
The growing bipartisanship is helping cannabis reform bills advance at a pace that seemed impossible even two years ago. This summer, the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act was approved by several committees and scheduled for a House vote. This historic vote, which will be the first time a full chamber of Congress will consider a cannabis legalization bill, was originally scheduled for September, but has now been put off until after this year's election.
Ocasio-Cortez added that it is especially important to ensure that cannabis legalization is implemented in a way that can benefit people from all races, ethnicities, and economic classes. “There are different ways that we can go about legalizing cannabis in the United States, and you can go about it in a way that concentrates power in a [Big Agriculture] way that concentrates power in big banks and that cuts out small mom and pops,” she said, Marijuana Moment reports.
“And then there’s another path towards legalization where everyday people and especially the black and brown communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs can be at the front of the line of enjoying the economic benefits of legalization,” AOC continued. “I think we’re just so past due to make sure that we’re legalizing cannabis in the United States and that we’re expunging people’s records from the absolutely unjust war on drugs. It is an incredible priority.”