This year’s midterm elections exasperated many of my liberal-minded friends, who had hoped that Congress would be more democratic (party-wise) than it turned out to be, but many of these same people didn’t vote.
Of course, we’re in New York, where a democratic vote hardly matters because the vote is largely decided already. So why vote?
These same friends are passionate about drug policy reform, including the legalization of cannabis. So when they heard the news about Oregon, Alaska, and Washington DC, they were thrilled, sharing the information with all of their friends, too.
So the millions of people in these places will have better access to cannabis without penalty next year. Where these laws passed, cannabis itself is no longer a crime.
This election has shown me that, although voting for representation in government doesn’t really get us young people excited anymore, direct forms of voting, where we aren’t waiting for politicians to make decisions for us, are making people care about politics again.
While Congress is gridlocked on most issues it faces because the two parties can’t seem to agree on anything, cannabis activists are making steady progress at the state level by working for reform by the people and for the people.
The power of this kind of democracy is under-appreciated, and cannabis legalization is proving that it works. When citizens get together to back a cause they care about, things change.
Similar patterns have emerged within the movement for LGBT rights and marriage equality. Controversy, of course, has sprung up along with progress on a state-by-state basis. But those legal arguments are being brought to higher courts, like the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has ruled that denying same-sex couples the right to marry is unconstitutional.
So if people continue to advocate for legalization at the state level, and if young people actually vote in these elections, the momentum is bound to continue. And we can only hope that challenges to these laws will be upheld in court, and that the U.S. legal system and justices will smile upon the legalization movement.
But until then, we can’t stop caring (read: voting). Direct democracy works, and it has gotten enough people excited to make all of the movement’s progress happen so far.