By Dave Campbell

The Peace and Freedom Party has called for ending cannabis prohibition since its founding in 1967. It was the first (and so far the only) party on the California ballot to say "Legalize It" in its platform.

This year, there are two ways we can finally achieve this goal: the Regulate, Control, and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010 on the November ballot, and Assembly Bill 2254 (successor to last session’s AB 390), submitted by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-SF). The Peace and Freedom Party supports both these measures. But that's not enough.

Of course, the Republican Party continues to promote the "War On Drugs." While many rank-and-file GOP voters, who see theirs as "the party of individual liberty and responsibility," would like to end prohibition, their party officially opposes any drug legalization.

The Democratic Party, as usual, waffles on the issue. While many rank-and-file Democratic Party voters and some Democratic candidates and office-holders would like to end prohibition, every Democratic candidate for statewide office, and the Obama administration, officially stand on the other side. Anyone who wants to get elected as a Democrat statewide or beyond needs to get with the prohibition program.

So while polls show either a majority or near-majority of Californians support legalization of cannabis (depending on how the question is phrased and who's asking), neither of the two parties in power will do so. Why is this?

There are real interests behind maintaining prohibition: the prison-industrial complex – prison builders, the prison guards' association (CCPOA), police agencies and prosecutors, and the private prison industry, the alcohol industry, and others. These interests have money, a clear and consistent message, and the ability to mobilize people. On the other side, opponents of prohibition are less monied, less united, and less likely to show up at the polls. So the twin-party politicians, whatever their personal views on the subject, calculate they have to keep cannabis illegal in order to keep their jobs.

Unlike the twin parties in power, the Peace and Freedom Party has always stood for legalizing cannabis. Unlike those parties, the Peace and Freedom Party’s platform is based on a consistent set of values – for working-class democracy, for socialism. And unlike those other parties, the candidates of the Peace and Freedom Party run on our party's platform; you never have to ask which side we're on, or wonder what we would do if elected.

As long as voters are willing to settle for a "lesser evil," rather than voting for what we really want because it's not "politically viable," we'll keep getting what we've got. To get what we need, we have to be willing to stand up for it. That means more than voting for a ballot initiative, or for "good" Democrats; it means joining, voting for and building the party that stands for what we stand for – because it’s our party.

This article is also available as a flyer to download print and distribute here.

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