Okay, so 2013 is the Year of the Gay. President Obama has been dubbed the "Gay President" for his ardent support of gay equality. More states are seeing gay marriage on the ballot. Even Catholics are changing their views on same-sex marriage. Amidst today’s political uproar, few other issues share even a glimpse of the same spotlight in the national conversation (and yes, this is a good thing) as the issue of gay rights.
But then there’s weed.
Last year’s November elections altered the course of American policy. Maine and Maryland became the first two states to approve gay marriage (by popular vote), while Colorado and Washington became the first two states to legalize recreational marijuana use (at all). And while it’s clear that these two topics are addressing somewhat different things, it’s easy to see how legal weed and gay marriage seems like a match made in heaven.
But not Bible heaven. In that heaven, there’s no weed or gays, which brings me to my first comparison between the two: the (mostly Christian) GOP hates them. Now, make no mistake, Republicans are trying to be more acceptant, but their Christian base is still mostly opposed to marijuana legalization as well as gay marriage.
This is bad news for the GOP. They can either give in to the youth vote by saying "We believe weed and gays are hip" (picture Mitt Romney saying that for best effect) while risking the Christian vote, or they continue to ignore issues that are gaining political maturity while handing those votes to Democrats who will gladly take them.
But it’s more than just keeping Republicans awake at night. Much like gay rights, marijuana law reform has now firmly marked its position as a federal issue. What makes Colorado and Washington’s new laws unique is that they contradict federal law in accordance to drug scheduling. The federal government deems cannabis to be as dangerous as heroin and LSD, a classification that places marijuana legalization in a strange limbo. Attorney General Eric Holder announced last week that the Justice Department is "in the last stages of review" and will "soon" make a decision on how the federal government will handle recreational use laws in these states.
However, regardless of the DOJ’s stance on state marijuana laws, how many more states can the federal government stop from realizing their rights?
That’s where gay rights and marijuana reform differ. Remember DOMA? Sure, it defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman, but it reserved those powers to the state. Federal drug scheduling doesn’t allow that. To legalize weed, either state laws must overwhelm the federal government (the most likely approach) or there must be a change in scheduling.
With the promise of more state ballots continuing to turn the tide, gay equality and marijuana law reform seem like poster-boys for progress in America. However, America’s hope for progress remains plagued by an overzealous right and automated government entities. Other than through a presidential shout-out at the inauguration, can marijuana activists gather the necessary support to make legalization a viable reality?