Home Politics Why Does Progressive Stalwart Jerry Brown Fight Drug Policy Reform?

Why Does Progressive Stalwart Jerry Brown Fight Drug Policy Reform?

Flickr @ Neon Tommy

Sometimes partisan lines get so thick that it’s easy to forget that not every politician fits into the same little box. And it can be especially jarring when someone strays so far from their box that explanation is not really possible.

Take the case of Jerry Brown, for example. A former and current Governor of California, Brown has been a champion of progressive causes for decades, earning the nickname “Governor Moonbeam” in the process.

But for all his progressive credentials, Governor Brown has never really warmed up to what most would consider one of the least radical positions that progressives generally hold: that marijuana should be legal for adult use.

Brown opposes legalization and most of the things that come with it. He regularly denigrates cannabis and those who use it. He recently vetoed a slew of marijuana law reform bills, including bills that would have given children access to their medical cannabis at school and expanded medical marijuana research.

To be fair, Brown did sign a bill that made it easier for those convicted of cannabis charges to get their records expunged. But for the most part, Brown has been especially hostile to the cannabis portion of the progressive community.

Beyond that, Brown seems hesitant to sign other drug policy reform bills as well. His recent veto of a bill that would have allowed San Francisco to open safe injection sites for drug users shocked and angered many drug policy reform advocates in the state.

“I am shocked that the Governor turned his back on the science and the experts and instead used outdated drug war ideology to justify his veto,” said Laura Thomas, Interim State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “He cited long-disproven ideas about substance use in his veto message rationale. It’s disturbing that Governor Brown apparently believes these myths about the need for coercive treatment and even more disturbing that people will die because of his veto. Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in California. How many people have to die before Governor Brown is willing to listen to the science and evidence and experience? How many families have to lose a loved one?”  

Believe me, I’m the last person to say that someone should support a position just because of the political label that has been placed on them. Nonetheless, it is weird for a so-called progressive to continue to advocate for the criminalization of people who are not infringing on the rights of anyone else. How can you claim to be for the people and the “little guy” while little guys are being arrested and given criminal records under policies that you agree with – even though they aren’t harming anyone else?