Democratic National Committee delegates voted against an amendment to the party’s 2020 draft policy platform that would include support for federal marijuana legalization.
The amendment was introduced by delegate Dennis Obduskey of Colorado after the platform-drafting panel excluded cannabis legalization from the Democrats’ official policy positions in the run up to the November election.
“We cannot ignore the fact that the current marijuana criminalization policy has in too many cases been used to target people of color,” said Obduskey. “They are unfairly and disproportionately six times more likely to be arrested than other citizens.”
Obduskey’s proposal was rejected in a 105 to 60 vote.
The adopted draft platform is in line with presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s stance on the issue, favoring decriminalizing marijuana possession over full legalization. The Democrats’ draft platform also includes automatic expungements of prior cannabis convictions, federal rescheduling, medical marijuana legalization and allowing states to determine their own cannabis laws. The platform further mentions the need to rethink the federal government’s broader approach to drug use from a law enforcement matter to a health issue.
“It is past time to end the failed “War on Drugs,” which has imprisoned millions of Americans — disproportionately people of color — and hasn’t been effective in reducing drug use. Democrats support policies that will reorient our public safety approach toward prevention, and away from over-policing — including by making evidence-based investments in jobs, housing, education and the arts that will make our nation fairer, freer, and more prosperous,” the draft platform reads.
“Substance use disorders are diseases, not crimes,” it continues. “Democrats believe no one should be in prison solely because they use drugs.”
These positions more or less follow the recommendations of the criminal justice task force established by Biden and his former rival for the nomination Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), even though some members of the task force said recently that decriminalization doesn’t go far enough.
One such member is Iowa County Supervisor Stacey Walker who was part of the Biden-Sanders criminal justice task force. She spoke via video conference in favor of Obduskey’s amendment to members of the platform committee prior to the vote.
“I’m imploring all of you to approach this with an open mind and heart. Do something big here,” Walker said. “Take one small but meaningful step toward changing the course of history. If my Black life matters to you, you will consider this amendment. We want to get in good trouble today, and I urge you to do the right thing and support it.”
One of the members of the platform committee who voted against the amendment, Sen. Cleo Fields (LA-D), said the draft platform proposal was already an “ambitious agenda” and that delegates should leave the text intact to “respect the efforts of our unity task force that produced it by retaining its current form.”
David Obduskey took a different view. He thinks the draft plan represents a step backward from the Democrats’ 2016 platform which held there should be “a reasoned pathway for future legalization.” The 2016 platform also called for action “to allow legal marijuana businesses to exist without uncertainty.” The draft 2020 platform, on the other hand, doesn’t mention full legalization nor the roles or needs of existing state-legal cannabis businesses.
The Democrats’ draft 2020 policy platform awaits delegate approval at the next Democratic National Convention in August.