Jacky Rosen, a Democratic member of the U.S. Congress from Nevada, is challenging Republican incumbent Dean Heller for his Senate seat, and she is making marijuana an issue. Although recreational and medical marijuana are legal in the state, Senator Heller’s support has been tepid, and Rosen is challenging him to show more resistance to the anti-marijuana policies of the Republican-controlled federal government.

In particular, she has focused on his lack of defense of his state’s laws against the actions of Jeff Sessions, who rescinded the Obama administration’s Cole memo. The Cole memo announced that the Department of Justice would not seek to enforce federal marijuana law in legal states.

Rosen Raises the Issue

Rosen has published a letter that she wrote to Sessions in January 2017 urging him to reverse his decision to rescind the Cole memo. The letter states: “As a Member of Congress from Nevada, whose residents amended the Nevada Constitution almost two decades ago to allow for the use of medical marijuana and voted overwhelmingly just last year to make recreational cannabis legal,  my constituents are particularly at risk from this misguided shift in policy.” She goes on to write: “I implore you to reinstate past DOJ policy, as outlined in the Cole Memorandum, immediately. To do otherwise would be an affront to states’ rights, a threat to small business, and an insult to Nevada voters.”

In a tweet on the issue, Rosen said: “DeanHeller is the only GOP senator up for re-election in 2018 who is both from a recreational marijuana state and who voted to confirm Sessions as Attorney General.” And in another: “Senator Heller stood on the sidelines while Jeff Sessions attacked our marijuana industry. In the Senate, I’ll work to protect it from federal interference so we can keep raising revenue and creating jobs.”

In a recent press release, Rosen “announced her co-sponsorship of the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act… bipartisan legislation that would direct the Department of Justice to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act as a Schedule 1 drug….Nevada voters chose to legalize recreational marijuana in 2016, and states like Nevada have shown that allowing responsible adults to purchase marijuana legally supports our state budget, creates new jobs and businesses, and drives our economy instead of making our broken criminal justice system worse. I believe it’s time to end the federal prohibition on marijuana, start regulating this product like alcohol, and get rid of barriers for states like ours where voters have made this decision to move forward. That’s why I’m supporting this commonsense legislation, and I will continue to fight to protect and support the marijuana industry here in Nevada.”

Heller’s Lack of Reply

A search of Heller’s campaign website for “marijuana” found only a press release attacking Rosen’s campaign website for “mention[ing] veterans only once—in a press release on recreational marijuana.” The same release states: “Rosen has raised money with Hanoi Jane Fonda.” As further evidence of Heller’s conservative leanings, his campaign website lists Tax Reform, Border Security and Immigration, Israel, and Federal Spending & Deficit as top policy concerns. On Twitter, he urges voters: “Don’t let our great state become “CaliforNevada,’” but there is no explanation of what a Nevada that is more like California would be like. NORML has given him a grade of “B,” however, for his support of the Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act of 2016.

According to polls, the two candidates are in a very close race.

What do you think? Will Rosen beat Heller in November? Is conservative drug policy becoming obsolete? Leave a comment below.

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