Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) announced recently that she "strongly supports a federal law keeping the government from interfering with states like California that legalize marijuana use” according to The Los Angeles Times. Many advocates of legalization saw it is a welcome announcement from one of Washington's staunchest cannabis opponents.
Feinstein had been a longtime opponent of marijuana but made an about-face this week when she announced she is now in favor of legalization. According to The Sacramento Bee,“Feinstein's office said her views changed after meetings with constituents, particularly those with young children who have benefited from medical marijuana use.”
The timing of the announcement comes as she is in the middle of defending her Senate seat. Her closest opponent Kevin De Leon has not taken a strong position on legalization. The Sacramento Bee described his position as “not a champion of the marijuana issue” nor “opposed to legalization either.”
Described by many as a moderate Democrat, Feinstein’s views were shaped “when she was a parole officer she saw too many criminals who ‘began with marijuana and then went on to hard drugs’” according to The Sacramento Bee. She caught hell about her anti-legalization stance during the 2016 ballot initiative legalizing adult-use recreational marijuana. Pro-legalization advocates accused her of “spreading ‘reefer madness-style’-disinformation campaigns” as reported by The Sacramento Bee.
The change of heart may give the five-term senator a more favorable view from Californians who voted favor in of recreational marijuana use at a rate of “57 percent to 43 percent in 2016” as reported by The Sacramento Bee.
While it is highly unlikely that her Senate seat is in jeopardy, this new outlook on pot puts her in line with not only Californians but a majority of Americans.
Missouri Looks To Legalize Medical Marijuana
Like Feinstein, Missouri is attempting to change its view on marijuana use. Missouri’s House of Representatives voted 112-44 in favor of a state sanction medical marijuana program.
Championed by Representative Jim Neely (R-8), the legislation known as House Bill 1554 allows patients verified by a doctor to “possess and use smokeless marijuana” according to The Kansas City Star. Representative Neely was driven by a personal reason —his daughter died of cancer. In his support of the legislation, he stated “We want to provide this comfort to the folks here in Missouri” according to The Kansas City Star.
Initially, only patients with terminal illnesses could participate in the program but an amendment was attached expanding “access to people with other conditions, including cancer, Parkinson's and epilepsy, even if they're not considered terminal” according to The Kansas City Star.
While the bill has moved forward it still has its critics.
Representative Lynn Morris (R-140) expressed concern over the bill, specifically the amendments. In the report by The Kansas City Star, Representative Morris, whose mother has Alzheimer's said, "I don’t think there’s anything medical marijuana could have done for that person, for my mom[…]I’m wondering whether we took too big of a step by attaching all these amendments onto a wonderful bill of just taking care of people in the dying process.”
Others who oppose the House approved legislation fear that legalization could lead to recreational use among the youth. The same article by The Kansas City Star explained that prohibitionists believe that the bill “would allow medical marijuana treatments to bypass the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's clinical trial process for determining the safety and effectiveness of new drugs and that it could lead to more recreational marijuana use, especially among children.”
Groups who have advocated in favor of legalization in the state are starting to see some movement albeit slow.
One group who has been at the center of the legalization fight is New Approach Missouri. New Approach Missouri is making waves in the Show-Me State, as they raised “more than $1.3 million through June” of 2017 to support legalization efforts according to The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Jack Cardetti, their spokesman, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that “Our goal is to make Missouri the 30th state that allows state-licensed physicians to recommend medical marijuana to patients with debilitating illnesses.”
Their goal may be well on its way to becoming a reality as House bill 1554 goes to the Senate.