Much like everything else in 2020, this year’s upcoming presidential election is strange and unprecedented. If you live in the Twin Cities metropolitan area, where Simply Crafted CBD is based, you may be aware that Kanye West is on your ballot, for example, which is only true in 11 other states.
You may also have noticed, if you have already received a mail-in ballot or checked a sample ballot online, that there are two major parties in Minnesota with platforms focused on the reform of our state’s marijuana laws. These are Legal Marijuana Now and Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis, and this article will take a look at each of them, their histories and principles, and how they could affect this fraught election cycle.
Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis is the older of the two parties, having been created in 1986 with a democratic-socialist base and a focus on legalization issues. It is Minnesota-based, with previously active branches in Iowa and Vermont.
Legal Marijuana Now was established in 1998 on many of the same principles, and is in fact an offshoot of the Grassroots party as well. They have currently active branches in Iowa, Nebraska, New Jersey, and Wisconsin, as well as Minnesota. In addition to cannabis legalization and social-democratic causes such as environmental stewardship, labor unions, anti-war efforts, and minority rights, Legal Marijuana Now also has a strong focus on increasing voter turnout in elections.
Both parties have run presidential candidates in past elections, with the Grassroots party’s Jack Herer in 1988 and 1992, Dennis Peron in 1996, Denny Lane in 2000, and Jim Carlson in 2012, and Legal Marijuana Now’s Dan Vacek of Minnesota in 2016, and Howie Hawkins of New York on the ballot this year as the Green party candidate.
Locally, Legal Marijuana Now candidate Adam Weeks died in late September, which will necessitate a total reset of the 2nd Congressional District race, due to a state law dictating a special election if any candidate dies within 79 days of an election. This law was enacted as a result of the plane crash that killed Senator Paul Wellstone 11 days before the general election in 2002.
Weeks, like the aforementioned Kanye West, was a controversial candidate, as are many of those running on these two progressive tickets, and for some of the same reasons. Like Kanye, many of the Legal Marijuana Now and Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis candidates have been accused of diverting progressive votes away from the dominant Democratic-Farmer-Labor party. Weeks was even accused, in the months before his death, of being a secret Republican running specifically for this purpose, to siphon votes away from the DFL, and he’s not the only one.
Robyn Smith, the Legal Marijuana Now state Senate candidate in the northeast Minnesota race, has been candid about having been recruited to run for the party by an unnamed Republican, as well as her support of Donald Trump, her disdain for Democrats and the Black Lives Matter movement, and her willingness to divert votes away from her DFL competitor, Rita Albrecht.
There is concern about this sort of thing within the parties themselves, as well. As District 55A Legal Marijuana Now nominee Ryan Martin has pointed out, now that the legalization parties have achieved major party status, “anyone can run, and clearly the Republicans decided to run all these candidates for this spot and most of them don’t even favor legalization and are just running to siphon votes away from the Democratic party.”
The truth may be more complex, though. Weeks is a good example, as many of his past social media posts would seem to indicate Republican leanings, while later statements reflect more of a disillusionment with both of the dominant parties.
In a statement to KARE, Weeks wrote, “Congressional Democrats and Republicans are in essence two sides of the same coin, offering opposing rhetoric, while, in practice, legislators from both parties simply do the bidding of the multinational corporations which fund their campaigns.” His more recent social media posts reflect core values of the legalization movement as well, such as opposition to the disproportionate incarceration and abuse of Black citizens due to the so-called “War on Drugs.” This is perhaps the most important facet of the legalization movement.
With so many steps having already been taken toward the full legalization of cannabis, and so many people profiting from the sales of this no longer entirely forbidden plant, it is shameful for so many American citizens to still be serving time for these harmless “offenses.”
Though it can be just as difficult to navigate the candidates representing this crucial progressive movement as it is to navigate every other aspect of the corrupt electoral process, the legalization movement is essential for universal human freedom. If you live in one of the states that can vote directly on legalization propositions in this election (Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota), we encourage you to research those initiatives and do what you can to support legalization, and if you live here in Minnesota with us, look into the Legal Marijuana Now or Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis candidate in your district and consider giving them some support.