Key Democratic Senator Finally Ends Pointless Campaign Against Legal Marijuana
Sen. Dianne Feinstein will no longer fight against legalization of recreational marijuana, the California Democrat told McClatchy on Tuesday.
“My state has legalized marijuana for personal use, and as California continues to implement this law, we need to ensure we have strong safety rules to prevent impaired driving and youth access, similar to other public health issues like alcohol," Feinstein told the newspaper.
Feinstein had opposed Proposition 64, California's 2016 ballot initiative to legalize recreational pot. McClatchy also notes that in 2015, Feinstein "was the sole Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee to vote against preventing federal funds from being used to target state-legalized medical marijuana dispensaries."
While she was in favor of some forms of medical marijuana use, she feared the negative consequences of wider legalization — a view that earned the ire of many liberal activists.
Though Feinstein attributes her change of heart to conversations with her constituents in her comments to McClatchy, she also has an imminently practical reason to back legal pot. She will face off against Kevin de Leon as a challenger in this year's Democratic primary, and her opponent is running to her left.
Feinstein's change is a significant development in national drug policy. As the most senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, she holds a key vote on any marijuana legalization or decriminalization legislation coming down the pike.
The attitude shift is also a reflection of wider developments in the Democratic Party. Just last month, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer came out in favor of legalizing marijuana at the federal level — an announcement that shows that party's leftward tilt and the growing influence of the younger generation in on national politics.