Drug Policy Action Releases 2016 Congressional Voter Guide

Press Release October 24, 2016
Media Contact

<h2 class="subtitle">
<p>Tony Newman 646-335-5384<br />
Grant Smith 202-669-6573</p>

Today, Drug Policy Action released its 2016 Congressional Voter Guide which grades members of Congress on how they voted on seven key drug policy reform votes in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2015 and 2016 (there were no drug policy votes on the Senate floor that could be scored).

A record number of U.S. House Representatives earned a perfect score (“A” grade) – more than double the number of Representatives who earned a perfect score from Drug Policy Action in 2014. More than half of all U.S. Representatives (177 Democrats and 64 Republicans) earned a “C” or better.

This surge in support for drug policy reform provides further confirmation of a major political shift underway in Congress toward favoring letting states set their own marijuana policies, as well as drug policy reform more broadly. Meanwhile, support for punitive, hardline drug policies is waning.  In 2014, the year that saw the U.S. House of Representatives vote in favor of major marijuana law reform for the first time, 49 Representatives earned a perfect score from Drug Policy Action, compared to 110 in 2016. In contrast, Drug Policy Action’s 2008 voter guide could not name a single Representative who voted in favor of reform every time. The guide is designed not just to educate voters on which members of the U.S. House of Representatives support drug policy reform – but also to send a firm message to elected officials that they will be held accountable for supporting draconian policies that exacerbate the worst harms of the drug war.

“Voters have signaled time and again that they want new drug policies grounded in health and science, and elected officials in Congress are finally paying attention,” said Grant Smith, deputy director of national affairs with Drug Policy Action. “We’ve reached the remarkable point where more than half of Representatives in Congress are consistently responding to public opinion and voting in favor of letting states set their own drug policies, yet nearly half of Congress is still ignoring public opinion in favor of drug policy reform. It’s up to voters to let these Representatives know how they feel about their record on these issues,” said Smith.

Some highlights from the 2016 Congressional Voter Guide include:

The 2016 Drug Policy Action Congressional Voter Guide scored seven votes:

“This scorecard tell us that there is a bipartisan movement in Congress to end the drug war,” said Michael Collins, deputy director of national affairs with Drug Policy Action. “Not everyone is there yet, and some wish to stand on the wrong side of history, but the days when devastating drug war policies dominate the legislative agenda are over,” said Collins.

Today’s release of the 2016 Drug Policy Action Congressional Voter Guide comes just two weeks before voters weigh in on marijuana legalization initiatives in California, Massachusetts, Arizona, Nevada and Maine, as well as medical marijuana initiatives in Florida, Arkansas, Montana and North Dakota. Drug Policy Action worked closely with local and national allies to draft each of this year’s initiatives, build coalitions, and raise funds.

A new report released on October 13th by the Drug Policy Alliance brings good news for the states considering legalization and the broader marijuana legalization movement. Since the adult possession of marijuana became legal, Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Oregon have benefitted from a dramatic decrease in marijuana arrests and convictions, as well as increased tax revenues. During the same period, these states did not experience increases in youth marijuana use or traffic fatalities.

A newly released nationwide Gallup poll found that a record 60 percent of respondents support legalizing marijuana. In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first two U.S. states – and the first two jurisdictions in the world – to approve ending marijuana prohibition and legally regulating marijuana production, distribution and sales. In the 2014 election, Alaska and Oregon followed suit, while Washington D.C. passed a more limited measure that legalized possession and home cultivation of marijuana (but did not address its taxation and sale due to a federal law passed by Congress in 2014 that bars D.C. from pursuing taxation and regulation).

Drug Policy Action is the c(4) political arm of the Drug Policy Alliance, the nation’s leading organization working to end the war on drugs and promote drug policies grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights.

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

Sign up for updates from DPA.