On Tuesday, the drug policy reform movement achieved state and local victories that were unimaginable when we were founded 18 years ago. Eight of nine cannabis ballot initiatives won, providing safe access to medical marijuana for millions of potential new patients and safety from the trap of marijuana enforcement for millions of users in four more states (with our deep condolences to the people of Arizona, who still face a felony charge for possession of any amount of cannabis).
We should celebrate that work and the great victory we have achieved together. We talked to our friends and families, held educational events, wrote letters to the editor, worked to change campus dialogues, participated in get out the vote efforts, and called nearly 40,000 voters. We had 3,902 conversations with voters in Maine, where the initiative won by only 2,620 votes. We have created a sea change in the way people think about marijuana policy that reaches well beyond our coalition of reformers and won eight monumental reforms in an election where both presidential candidates had pledged to uphold the rights of states regarding marijuana policy!
Americans also elected a President, House, and Senate likely to set themselves to the task of unraveling progress on so many of the reforms we have fought so hard for. Access to treatment for people experiencing problematic substance use and funding for needle exchange programs may be under threat. Policing and sentencing reforms which felt so promising on Monday have become more critically important but harder to win. People who are undocumented — too often refugees of the drug war — may face increased deportation threats. Internationally, our members and allies in the global south are at risk from escalations of damaging drug control initiatives. People’s lives continue to be at stake.
And so our fight has never been more important.
The excitement around cannabis reform demonstrates that our movement is vibrant, and though officials and institutions may try to pull us back with antiquated approaches, the people are pushing with us. The work we’ve been doing in support of youth voter turnout was targeted in states with marijuana reforms, yes, but fundamentally we’ve been strategically building our vibrant youth movement to radically shift the ways we perceive drugs and drug users. So we will fight, harder than ever.
A few hours after the race was called, our outreach coordinator Jake put it just right:
“We dealt the drug war a huge blow last night, and we aren’t going to let anything take that away from us. Keep building coalitions, keep organizing, and don’t let up, because it’s pretty clear that this movement is going to be an important piece of history for the next 4 years.”
We’re taking the effective organizing we’ve done and expanding it to protect vulnerable communities in the coming years. Our wins at the ballot box must fuel our work. Let’s not lose sight of the clear fact that many thousands of people who would have otherwise been caught in the trap of a marijuana offense will instead be able to stand with us.
This is a call to action: we have a lot of work to do together. First, we must demand the President-Elect keep his promise to respect state marijuana laws by signing this petition from our friends over at Marijuana Majority. We’ll be asking you to join in on more critical actions in the coming weeks to make the most of the last 68 days of the Obama administration, too. And, if you are able to support our student network as we protect and expand our gains on campus and in our states, please consider making a gift of any amount — even $5 helps provide us with the tools we’ll need to keep building this movement.