Meet the Most Marijuana Friendly Members of Congress Graded from A to F
The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws is pleased to present its 2016 Congressional Scorecard. The Scorecard is an all-encompassing database that assigns a letter grade 'A' through 'F' to members of Congress based on their marijuana-related comments and voting records.
THE TIME IS NOW
Now more than ever there exists majority public support for ending America's nearly century-long experiment with cannabis prohibition and replacing it with a taxed and regulated adult marketplace. Sixty-one percent of American adults believe that "the use of marijuana should be made legal," according to nationwide polling data provided by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Four in five US adults (81 percent) favor legalizing cannabis as a therapeutic treatment option, according to a 2015 nationwide Harris Poll, and 67 percent of voters believe that states, not the federal government, ought to be the ultimate arbiters of marijuana regulatory policy.
A majority of states have now parted ways with the federal government on marijuana policy. Twenty-six states classify low-THC strains of cannabis (hemp) as an agricultural crop, not as a controlled substance. Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia permit the physician-supervised use of cannabis therapy for qualified patients. Sixteen states exempt the marijuana plant constituent cannabidiol (CBD) from the definition of cannabis and permit its use among qualified patients.
Four states – Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington – have enacted regulations governing the adult use of cannabis, and permitting the plant's commercial production and retail sale. This November, voters in at least five states are anticipated to decide on similar legalization measures, while voters in three states will decide on medicinal marijuana ballot initiatives.
Members of Congress are increasingly becoming aware of this changing public and political sentiment. Over a dozen federal pieces of legislation are pending in Congress to amend federal marijuana policy. These include proposals to reclassify cannabis as a schedule II controlled substance, to limit the government's ability to interfere in the implementation of state marijuana laws, and to expand cannabis commerce. Nonetheless, federal leadership on the issue of marijuana law reform is still sorely lacking.
While states continue moving forward and pioneering reforms, the federal government still largely remains an obstruction to progress. The ongoing conflict between state and federal cannabis policy remains an unnecessary impediment to those jurisdictions wishing to fully explore the wide range of regulatory options before them. Ultimately, this is a conflict that can only be resolved by Congress, who possesses the authority to amend federal law.
HOW NORML'S CONGRESSIONAL SCORECARD WAS CALCULATED
The Congressional Scorecard grades members of the United States House and Senate on a simplified 'A' to 'F' scale.
An 'A' letter grade indicates that this member has publicly declared his/her support for the legalization and regulation of marijuana for adults.
A 'B' letter grade indicates that this member has publicly declared his/her support for the ability of a state to move forward with cannabis law reform policies free from federal interference.
A 'C' letter grade indicates that this member supports policies specific to the legalization of medical cannabis and/or the decriminalization of cannabis.
A 'D' letter grade indicates that this member has expressed no support for any significant marijuana law reform
An 'F' letter grade indicates that this member expresses significant and vocal opposition to marijuana law reform
Grading is based upon members' 2015 voting records, whether or not a member has sponsored or cosponsored legislation specific to federal marijuana law reform, whether or not a member has sponsored marijuana-related amendments, and/or their public statements or testimony. Those members with no voting record or comments on the topic received no grade.
Despite a number of marijuana--related measures pending before the 114th Congress, no bill has yet to receive a vote in committee or on the floor. By contrast, members of both chambers have decided on several cannabis-specific amendments attached to various appropriations bills.
NORML weighed the following votes when determining our grades for US Representatives:
The 2015 McClintock/Polis Amendment: This language, which was defeated by the House, sought to prohibit the Department of Justice from interfering with state-specific, adult use marijuana laws.
The 2015 Rohrabacher/Farr Amendment: This language, which was passed by the House, prohibits the Department of Justice from interfering with state-specific medical marijuana programs that license the production and dispensing of cannabis to qualified patients.
The 2015 Blumenauer Amendment: This language, which was defeated by the House, sought to permit physicians affiliated with the US Department of Veterans Affairs to recommend cannabis therapy to veterans in states that allow for its therapeutic use.
NORML weighed the following amendment votes when determining our grades for US Senators:
The 2015 Daines/Merkley Amendment: This language, which was passed by the Senate but later defeated in conference with the House, sought to permit physicians affiliated with the US Department of Veterans Affairs to recommend cannabis therapy to veterans in states that allow for its therapeutic use.
The 2015 Mikulski Amendment: This language, which was passed by the Senate, prohibits the Department of Justice from interfering with state-specific medical marijuana programs that license the production and dispensing of cannabis to qualified patients
The 2015 Merkley Amendment: This language, which was passed by the Senate but later defeated in conference with the House, sought to prohibit the US Treasury Department from using federal funds to take punitive actions against banks and other financial institutions that provide services to marijuana-related businesses that are operating legally under state laws.
Below are NORML's key findings. Among the 535 members of the 114th Congress:
312 members (58 percent) received a passing grade of 'C' or higher (258 Representatives and 54 Senators)
Of these, 19 members (4%) received a grade of 'A' (17 Representatives and 2 Senators);
221 members (41%) received a 'B' grade (193 Representatives and 28 Senators);
72 members (13%) received a 'C' grade (48 Representatives and 24 Senators)
170 members (32%) received a 'D' grade (150 Representatives and 20 Senators)
37 members (7%) received failing grade (20 Representatives and 17 Senators)
54 Senators (54%) received a passing grade of a C or higher. (Two A's, 28 B's, and 24 C's)
258 Representatives (59%) received a passing grade of a C or higher. (17 A's, 193 B's, and 48 C's)
Of the 233 Democrats in Congress, 208 members (89%) received a passing grade of a 'C' or higher.
Of the 302 Republicans in Congress, 102 members (34%) received a passing grade of a 'C' or higher.
It is clear from this analysis that support for substantive marijuana law reform is far less pronounced among elected officials than it is among the voters they represent. While greater than 6 in 10 American adults believe that "the use of marijuana should be made legal," only 3.6 percent of Congressional members received an 'A' grade based upon their voting record and/or public statements. Similarly, while 67 percent of voters believe Congress should act to provide states that have legalized marijuana "a safe haven from federal marijuana laws," fewer than 45 percent of Congressional members espouse this position.
Regionally, it is clear that the southern United States possesses the least amount of support for marijuana law reform among federally elected politicians. Of the 37 members who received an 'F' grade, 17 of them (about 46 percent) represent states in the Southern region of the nation.
It is clear that voters' opinions with regard to cannabis policy are well ahead of that of their elected officials. While many advocates have been working tirelessly to amend their local and state marijuana, proponents must also engage in concerted efforts to educate federally elected officials. Here's how:
Become an engaged voter. Know who your federally elected officials are and where they stand on the issue of marijuana law reform. NORML's Congressional Scorecard can help you get started.
Urge your elected officials to take action. Use NORML's #TakeAction Center to stay up to date on pending federal legislation and use our pre-written letters to contact your members and urge their support. Visitors to NORML's #TakeAction Center have sent over 47,000 letter to members of Congress in the past year.
Team up with other advocates. Coordinating with local advocates through a NORML Chapter makes federally elected officials aware that voters are organizing in their district. Organizing locally also helps advocates build a consistent message.
Stay up to date on national lobbying events. NORML's 2016 Congressional Lobby Day is scheduled for May 23rd and 24th this year. Consider travelling to Washington D.C. to meet advocates from across the country and to lobby Capitol Hill together.
NORML is excited to share with you the results of its 2016 Congressional Scorecard. The full report will be released on 4/20. The information provided in the scorecard will periodically be updated as needed. Any questions, comments, or concerns specific to the scorecard are welcome and can be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
**Important and timely publications such as this are only made possible when concerned citizens become involved with NORML. Please consider making a donation of at least $4.20 so we may continue to work towards legalization and providing you the tools necessary to be an informed voter**