It’s true that most political figures in the United States are still reluctant to embrace marijuana reform, despite its rapidly growing support in the polls. However, there are a handful of figures who are actively fighting to slow down, stop, or even reverse the gains already made. Five of the biggest opponents are:
5) Congressman Andy Harris (R-MD)
Whether you are a strong supporter of marijuana reform or simply believe in the basic democratic principle that people should have the power to decide their own local laws, you should despise Rep. Andy Harris. In November 2014, the people of Washington, D.C. voted overwhelmingly to legalize marijuana, and immediately after the D.C. Council began preparing rules to regulate its sale. At the last minute, though, Rep. Harris fought to include a rider in the Congressional budget to stop the D.C. Council from moving forward.
While the roughly 650,000 residents of our national’s capital are still denied any representation in Congress, it is the only place in which Congress has the power to overturn any local law they want. Congress’ tendency to abuse this power, forcing unpopular local laws on the residents of D.C., is longstanding injustice.
4) Casino Billionaire Sheldon Adelson
Sheldon Adelson is the only non-politician on this list, but as a billionaire willing to spend nearly unlimited amounts on political campaigns, he is in many ways more powerful. Last year Florida was on track to adopt a constitutional amendment allowing for the use of medical marijuana until Adelson almost single handedly funded the campaign against the measure. Thanks to the over $5 million spent by Adelson, the opposition campaign was able to drive down popular support just enough to cause the measure to fail. On election day, the Florida Right to Medical Marijuana Initiative ended up receiving only 57.6 percent of the vote, which is below the 60 percent requirement in Florida for amendments on the ballot.
2 and 3) Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R) and Former Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning (R)
The two attorneys general share this spot thanks to their joint lawsuit against Colorado, Nebraska and Oklahoma v. Colorado. After the successful opening of Colorado’s legal marijuana stores, the pair filed suit claiming Colorado’s marijuana system undermined their own marijuana bans. The main goal of their suit is to effectively have the Supreme Court shut down Colorado’s commercial marijuana industry. While the suit seems unlikely to succeed at this time, if it does it could not only upend retail marijuana in Colorado but also in Washington, Alaska, and Oregon.
1 ) Gov. Chris Christie (R)
Chris Christie and a handful of other aggressively anti-marijuana presidential candidates are the single greatest threat to marijuana reform right now, since the marijuana industry currently exists at the whim of the White House. While individual states have legalized marijuana, it still remains illegal to possess, produce or sell under federal law. So far the Obama administration has chosen to take a relatively hands off approach, allowing states to experiment with regulating marijuana, but there is no guarantee the next administration will continue this policy. Theoretically, the next president could tell federal agencies to arrest every licensed marijuana business owner and seize their assets. A move like that would undo many of the advances made in the past several years.
Among the current presidential candidates, there is a wide range of positions on the issue of federal enforcement. Some candidates are very good on this issue, like Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders and Republican candidate Rand Paul, who respectively earned an A and A- from the Marijuana Policy Project. Others including Republicans Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum have made statements indicating that they might use federal enforcement in legal states. Out of all the presidential candidates, though, Chris Christie is the most prominent, aggressive and vocal opponent of state marijuana legalization. Only a few months ago Christie said, “If you’re getting high in Colorado today, enjoy it. As of January 2017, I will enforce the federal laws.” If elected he would have the power to do just that.