Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Florida US representative, has long been a thorn in the side of the marijuana law reform movement. While more and more Democrats have joined the movement to enact sensible cannabis laws, Ms. Schultz has remained an opponent, siding with Republican backers such as billionaire Sheldon Adelson who dumped millions into Florida to defeat last year’s medical marijuana measure.
A vast majority of Democrats across the country understand that the War on Marijuana has unfairly hurt people of color and of low income, two constituencies that the Democratic Party have traditionally understood as their base supporters. Not only does reforming marijuana laws show compassion for poor minorities disproportionately targeted for draconian punishments, but also sick and disabled patients battling severe and debilitating medical conditions. Further, in cold, hard political calculations, Democratic political operatives have concluded that marijuana measures bring out young voters more likely to support Democratic candidates. The Democratic Party of Oregon endorsed the state’s Measure 91 marijuana legalization initiative last election and Oregon became the only state to see Democratic majorities in the state legislature increase as legalization was supported by just over 56% of all Oregon voters and CNN exit polling found that 77% Oregon Democrats supported Measure 91.
The DNC Chair seems to be going against the tide of her party and the nation, but was alledelly willing to change positions if prominent Florida attorney and medical marijuana supporter John Morgan took back statements he made against her. Morgan’s support could be key if Ms. Schultz decides to run for a US Senate Seat in Florida. Per Politico:
Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s office offered to change her position on medical marijuana if a major Florida donor recanted his withering criticism of her, according to emails obtained by POLITICO.
The proposal to Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan was straightforward: retract critical statements he made to a reporter in return for Wasserman Schultz publicly backing his cannabis initiative that she had trashed just months earlier. Morgan declined the offer with a sharp email reply sent to a go-between, who described the congresswoman as being in a “tizzy.”
“No,” Morgan responded. “She is a bully. I beat bullies up for a living.”
The DNC Chair has since fired back, refuting Morgan’s claim. From the Sun Sentinel:
Wasserman Schultz called the allegation “outrageous” and said the purported deal, reported by Politico is false.
“I wouldn’t change my position in exchange for support under any circumstances – ever. I stand on principle. I’m always very proud to stand in front of my constituents and explain when I have a difference of opinion with them,” she told the Sun Sentinel.
Her accuser, the prominent Orlando-based trial lawyer John Morgan, responded in a statement Friday afternoon that Wasserman Schultz’s suggestion of a quid pro quo was “crystal clear.”
It appears that Ms. Wasserman Schultz will be damaged among Florida Democrats regardless of how this dispute plays out. While the Florida medical marijuana measure didn’t garner the 60% needed for passage, 58% of Florida voters did support the legalization of medical cannabis. It would behoove the Florida representative to both educate herself on the science of medical cannabis, maybe catch a Dr. Sanjay Gupta special, and talk to some patients that are suffering through chemotherapy or from glaucoma. Wasserman Schultz should then “evolve” on the issue and support a new medical marijuana policy that contains a few revisions from last year’s ballot measure. While she has been a formidable politician and fund raiser, she will only be able to go against the will of the voters for so long. Changing her stance on medical cannabis will be both a compassionate and politically pragmatic decision that is long overdue.