How Many Senate Candidates Are Running On Marijuana Legalization?

As Maine goes, so goes the nation?

I hope you saw the Blue America e-mail about Maine senatorial candidate Shenna Bellows yesterday. She's the former ACLU executive director who's taking on Susan Collins this cycle. Although Collins is an old fashioned mainstream conservative, who nonetheless backs her reactionary colleagues nearly all the time, the media just delights in terming her a "moderate." Just Chris Christie. Yeah… Anyway, this won't be an easy battle for Shenna to win, even in an increasingly blue state like Maine. Obama won the state 401,306 (56%) to 292,276 (41%) last year and although the state is saddled with a crackpot Tea Party governor, he only won a 3-way primary with 36% of the vote.

64% of Mainers did not want to see Paul LePage win the governor's job. According to the latest polling, now that Mainers know him, they haven't warmed up to him. 39% approve of the job he's done and 56% disapprove. Even in a 3-way race, he's on track to losing to Democrat Mike Michaud. I doubt Collins is excited to be sharing the ticket with LePage.

The e-mail blast yesterday covered a whole grab bag of reasons why it's important for progressives to support Shenna. Mostly we tried painting a whole picture of the kind of senator she will be and the kinds of difficult issues she will be willing to lead on. I don't expect Shenna Bellows to go to Washingon just to vote well, any more than that was what I expect of Elizabeth Warren or Alan Grayson. Fierce advocates and skillful leaders are in short supply in Washington. Shenna Bellows has proven she'll be one of those.

I asked her to write a brief guest post that I suspect 95% of Democrats wouldn't go near with a ten foot pole: marijuana legalization. For me this isn't just about the specifics integral to the issue; it's also about the courageousness of a candidate for U.S. Senate taking a tough stand on an issue that frightens most politicians.

The guest post is below, please take a careful look and consider contributing to Shenna's grassroots campaign here.

As Maine Goes, So Should the Nation with Drug Law Reform

By Shenna Bellows

A few years ago, as executive director of the ACLU of Maine, I was discussing marijuana policy with a prosecutor. As we debated, he started reminiscing about his days as a pot smoker. At that point, I had to tell him that I’d never smoked pot due to my severe asthma. He thought this was funny, but I was troubled by the hypocrisy. When the prosecutor who is locking people up for marijuana laughs about his own use, something is terribly wrong. And when our last three U.S. Presidents have acknowledged marijuana use at the same time that poor kids-- particularly young males of color-- are getting thrown in jail for the same activity, we need change.

As a Democratic candidate for the United States Senate, I support marijuana legalization. We need to end the war on drugs and reform our criminal justice system, and we cannot afford to wait. The United States incarcerates more people in total and more people per capita than any other country in the world, and the racial disparities are alarming. Even in my home state of Maine, which is the whitest state in the union, blacks are 2.1 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession. Government spends billions of dollars each year enforcing counterproductive drug laws, which are truly the New Jim Crow. The economic and human rights costs are enormous.

Our limited public resources would be much better spent investing in drug treatment facilities and community education in a regulated system that promotes community health and safety. Instead of spending billions on a prison industrial complex, we could invest those funds in education, prevention and rehabilitation.

We should treat drug use as a public health issue rather than a criminal one. Mainers have been using medical marijuana safely now for over a decade. I met a senior citizen recently whose wife just died of lung cancer. He told me that marijuana was a necessary part of her palliative care. His daughter risked arrest, time and time again, to bring them marijuana in her mother’s last months. Medical marijuana patients all across the country have similar heart-rending stories.

Maine is already a leader on marijuana policy. Maine voters overwhelmingly approved medical marijuana, first in 1999 and then again in 2009. Portland citizens just voted in a landslide to approve the recreational use of marijuana in small amounts for adults over 21. Now is the time for federal reform. We need a commonsense approach to drug policy based on science and liberty; we need to end prohibition. With your help, I will be a voice in the United States Senate for sensible drug policy. Join our movement for change at www.bellowsforsenate.com.

As Maine goes, so should the nation.

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