On Tuesday, Minnesota Senator Al Franken officially became the fifth person to sign on as a co-sponsor for a pro-cannabis legalization bill that would authorize marijuana growers and cultivators to be eligible for taxation. If passed, the measure would further legitimize the manufacture and sale of weed—and the very signing itself indicates Franken’s ever-growing platform on pot.
A Natural Progression
Previously, Franken’s stance on the issue was ambiguous at best—and uninformed at the least. On a Buzzfeed podcast last year, the former Saturday Night Live writer-turned-popular politician stated that he was “not the guy to ask” about cannabis legalization.
“I should know more,” Franken continued, “or it’s not important or somewhere in between.”
As Forbes noted, however, popular opinion towards cannabis consumption, whether recreational or medicinal, is undergoing a sea change. According to a recent poll conducted by Quinnipiac University, 60 percent of U.S. citizens are in support of federally legalizing pot use. Roughly 72 percent of respondents who self-identified as Democrats responded in the same way.
A Rise in Popularity
Despite what certain members of the Trump administration would have you believe, this trend uptick has very little to do with state-by-state legalization. A study published by the Public Health Institute found that a large number of supporters were within the Baby Boomer generation—meaning that they are helming the trend more than—if not equally—alongside Millennials.
Franken’s latest shift towards pro-legalization isn’t the first step he’s taken this year, or even this summer. In June, the Democratic legislator crossed the aisle with Rand Paul in an effort to combat Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ crusade against cannabis—namely, to prosecute medicinal marijuana cases. (To put Sessions’ uncanny, irrational fear of weed, don’t forget that this is a man who once said that he was okay with the KKK until he found out Klan members also smoked weed. Yes, that happened.)
In response, Franken and Paul created a bill specifically designed to contend Sessions’ agenda, meant to literally reverse any moves Sessions has made in conjunction with the Department of Justice (like, for instance, stripping the DEA of federal funding for medicinal marijuana research).
The larger ramifications of Franken’s support have mainly to do with recent rumors that the senator is considering a presidential electoral bid in 2020. While many have voiced their support of Al Franken if he will indeed pursue this action, others have spoken of his reluctance to do so. Franken’s spokesperson Michael Dale-Stein flat-out denied that the politician has any intentions to run, stating that he wishes to focus on issues within his state.
“He’s proud to represent the state of Minnesota and plans to spend the next several years fighting for Minnesota families,” Dale-Stein told reporters, “working on issues like income inequality, healthcare, education, college affordability, equal rights, and on behalf of consumers and small businesses.”