Some Marijuana Questions For Dianne Feinstein

[ Posted Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018 – 16:22 UTC ]

California's senior senator, Dianne Feinstein, has had a change of heart, it seems. It was reported late yesterday that Feinstein announced in an interview that she no longer opposes legal marijuana. No doubt that the fact that she's up for re-election this year in a state that already legalized recreational adult use of marijuana and the fact that she's drawn a progressive primary challenger both have a lot to do with her sudden epiphany. Feinstein has been, to date, one of the most strident anti-weed voices around, though, so this is big news no matter what her reasons truly are.

However, Feinstein's War On Weed record cannot be erased, no matter what her current position may be. Eight years ago, California had a ballot initiative that would have legalized recreational marijuana. But Proposition 19 failed to pass. Partly, this was due to the fact that the "No On 19" side was better organized and aired better television commercials. Dianne Feinstein chaired the "No On 19" effort. Six years later, Proposition 64 did pass, and once again Dianne Feinstein was chair of the "No" group. She took a very hands-on approach, in other words, while plenty of other Democrats were content to sit on the sidelines and see what the voters wanted to do. Some Democrats actually showed leadership on the issue -- the "Yes on 64" effort was led by Gavin Newsom, who could be California's next governor. But Feinstein's attitudes towards marijuana had been set in stone way back in the 1960s and -- until yesterday -- have not changed one iota. She's not just been against marijuana legal reform in the abstract, she's taken a very hands-on and active part in demonizing the idea.

Two years ago, before Proposition 64 had even made it onto the ballot, Feinstein joined with Republican Chuck Grassley to put on a star chamber session on marijuana. It's hard to find any other term that's more appropriate, really. A spokesman for the Drug Policy Alliance said of the exercise, at the time: "These hearings are a one-sided sham with the deck stacked with witnesses who have a track record of vehemently opposing marijuana legalization." Here's a more in-depth report of what took place:

Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), co-chairs of the Caucus on International Narcotics Control, called the hearing to evaluate a Department of Justice 2013 decision to not enforce federal drug laws in states that have legalized recreational marijuana use. Feinstein and Grassley, two of the Senate's most strident anti-drug crusaders, cited a recent Government Accountability Office report that criticized DOJ for inadequately monitoring the effects of state marijuana policies.

The four witnesses who testified at the hearing showed little diversity in their viewpoints: GAO's director for Homeland Security and Justice Jennifer Grover, who coauthored a report criticizing DOJ; California prosecutor Benjamin B. Wagner, who led raids on pot farms in California; Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson, who sued Colorado over its marijuana law; and Denver-based pediatrician Kathryn Wells, who sits on the board of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a group opposed to legalization.

No one at the hearing spoke in favor of reforming marijuana laws. Pro-legalization groups chided Grassley for not holding hearings on Senate legislation that would legalize marijuana for medical use and re-schedule the substance as a less dangerous drug.

So you'll have to forgive me now for being just a teensy bit skeptical of Feinstein's new support for marijuana legalization. Her track record on the subject is not just bad, it is downright awful. Maybe she could atone by holding a hearing now which featured only pro-legalization speakers? That might go a long way towards her rehabilitation, but I'm not exactly holding my breath waiting for it to happen.

Feinstein shifting her stance looks like nothing more than crass opportunism, which is a nice way of saying she is probably scared of what the voters think about her previous stance. She may actually have to run against her progressive challenger twice this year, once in the primary election and once in the general election (due to California's wacky "top-two primary" rules). So she's obviously trying to head off any effort to make her marijuana stance a major issue in the election. Meanwhile, California's voters will be voting on the same ballot for Gavin Newsom -- although not in the same race (because Newsom decided to run for governor, not senator).

Feinstein doesn't deserve to be let off easily on her newfound legalization support. In fact, no politician really should be able to get away with vague statements of support on the issue, from either side of the aisle. Back when Feinstein held that hearing, I devoted that week's Friday Talking Points to a series of marijuana questions I wanted answered by anyone running for president (Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, in particular). I went back and re-read this list of questions, and found that it's a perfect list of questions to put to Dianne Feinstein at some point during her 2018 campaign. Well, almost perfect, I should say. I had to make a few changes to the list. The first was to drop the first question I asked, because it directly addressed: "What would you do as president?" -- which obviously doesn't apply in Dianne Feinstein's case. Also, minor text changes were needed here and there as well, to remove phrases such as: "...would you, as president...." And I found that the last question needed minor updating as well, to add an issue that I hadn't even considered two years ago (wiping clean the records of anyone convicted of a marijuana crime which was no longer a crime). Still, the list continues to be a valid one to ask of any politician who says he or she supports marijuana legalization. Because the issue is far from being just a "yes/no" type of question.

So here are my six specific questions for Dianne Feinstein, now that she says she has seen the light on what the citizens of her state approved two years ago. I'd love to see these come up in a debate or an interview with Feinstein at some point in the next few months. The voters deserve to know exactly what Feinstein means when she says she now supports legalization, after all, before they make up their minds at the polls.



Currently, marijuana is listed as a Schedule I controlled substance. This classification means the federal government believes that marijuana is more dangerous than cocaine, PCP, crystal meth, and opium. Richard Nixon's administration made this classification, and it has never changed since. Since the D.E.A. refuses to reschedule marijuana, would you sponsor legislation in the Senate to do so? Which schedule would you move it to? Schedule II? Schedule III? Or even lower?


Or deschedule?

There is already a federal bureau which has the responsibility of overseeing alcohol and tobacco. Wouldn't it make more sense to completely deschedule marijuana and hand off oversight of marijuana issues to the A.T.F.? Especially considering that the number of states where recreational marijuana is fully legal can only be expected to grow, over time?


Freedom to travel

When Prohibition ended, some states and counties refused to condone the sale of alcohol. There are still many of these "dry" counties left, in fact. But a key point is that while it may be illegal to buy alcohol in any given county, it cannot be illegal there to possess or even consume alcohol (in the privacy of one's own home). A person can legally drive through a "dry" county with a sixpack of beer in the car, and if they stopped at a hotel there they could legally drink that alcohol in their room. Would you support changing federal law so that no state can criminalize either simple possession or private use of marijuana, so that it would be treated the same way that alcohol is now treated under the law?


Free the doctors!

Currently, anyone applying to conduct marijuana research has to jump through all kinds of legal hoops that other medical researchers do not have to, which wastes an enormous amount of time and effort. Would you support removing all unreasonable barriers to medical marijuana research that still exist? Would you support changing the application process for doctors wanting to conduct research so that it is the same process as for any other drug undergoing study?


Free the accountants!

Marijuana businesses that are fully in compliance with their state's laws still cannot use banking services that any other business is able to. Bankers are afraid they'll be charged as accessories to drug trafficking, so they refuse to do business with marijuana companies. Would you support changing federal law so that it is clear that banks will not have to worry about criminal charges for conducting business with marijuana companies that follow state law? Also, would you support changing federal tax law so that marijuana businesses could deduct the common business expenses that every other business is allowed to write off on their taxes?


Free the prisoners!

President Obama pardoned or commuted long jail terms for people sentenced under the worst of the War On Drugs "lock them all up" laws. Would you support continuing these amnesty efforts, to give relief to prisoners who are serving sentences that they likely would not receive today? And would you encourage district attorneys and U.S. attorneys to wipe clean the legal records of anyone previously convicted of a marijuana offense in states that have legalized it, to reflect the fact that it is no longer illegal?

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


15 Comments on “Some Marijuana Questions For Dianne Feinstein”

  1. [1] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    Please see comment 8 from "A made-up, phony crime that never existed" that covered this when you mentioned it in comment 6.

  2. [2] 
    TheStig wrote:

    Excellent questions to ask the senator.

    Suggested snappy acronym:


    Which on a parallel course suggests a movement mascot. ROFFFF - the Criminalization of Pot Fighting Dog. Basically McGruff in a tye dye shirt, with headband, beads and shades. Those changes ought to get around copyright issues.

    ROFFFF always smokes responsibly: "Don't toke and drive!"

  3. [3] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    at the VERY least, medical uses of marijuana need to be legal everywhere. it's too useful a drug for cancer patients and other severe conditions for it to be unavailable to those who would benefit.

  4. [4] 
    Kick wrote:

    Speaking of marijuana, Rudy G must be smoking it because he just admitted that Donald Trump reimbursed Michael Cohen the $130,000 hush money to Stormy Daniels over a period of several months funneled through another entity.

    Question: Why would a billionaire reimburse chump change like that to an individual over several payments funneled through a separate entity?

    Answer: Either money laundering or structuring... or both.

    Ask Dennis Hastert about structuring. :)

  5. [5] 
    MyVoice wrote:


    Possibly some new resources to help you further your cause or a way to reframe/expand your project to greater effect:

  6. [6] 
    TheStig wrote:


    Rudy has been on the case for a couple of days and acts like he has had the time to fully absorb everything that team Trump knows and, more importantly, what Mueller and the FBI know. Rudy is on the cable TV trying to be Avenatti. I think Rudy is already over the tips of his roller skates. He'd better have a sturdy pair of walking-things-back shoes.

    "Change is not a destination, just as hope is not a strategy." - Rudy G.from WikiP

  7. [7] 
    TheStig wrote:

    Feinstein's flip on marijuana has not gone unnoticed by the press. It really is a big deal.

    On grounds of analogy, I favor deschedule. Like alcohol and tobacco:

    1) demand will be driven primarily by recreational use.

    2) the product will be produced in bulk

    3) the product will be an important source of tax revenue.

    Alcohol, Tobacco, Cannabis and Fire Arms = ATCF

  8. [8] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    Thank you.

    Charlotte Hill seems to recognize at the end of the article that the solution will not come from legislation.

    "To reduce lobbyist influence, then, we cannot merely regulate lobbyist activities. Rather, we must make lawmakers less dependent on lobbyist resources by funding talented, educated policy staffers and retaining qualified public servants."

    We'll see in her upcoming articles how she intends to accomplish her goals.

    But the operative word is "we". So it will have to be something like One Demand that uses the power of the vote to counter the power of the money because when it comes right down to it, the money cannot be effective if it can't "buy" the votes by pricing competition out of the market.

  9. [9] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:

    This: Desperate to hire, more businesses open door to pot smokers is probably more significant than Feinstein's flip on the issue. Employers starting to request drug testing companies omit marijuana from their tests is another major hurdle to general acceptance.

  10. [10] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    That will be the end of the drug testing industry because marijuana stays in the system longer than drugs like cocaine so without testing for marijuana it will not catch many violators.

    Here's a song I wrote in the 80's about drug testing:

    Fill the Jar

    1. You want the job, do ya?
    Fill the jar
    We wanna know what's flowing through ya
    Fill the jar
    Fill the jar we'll send it to the lab, boy
    We're gonna find out what kinda drugs you had
    You want the job, do ya?
    Fill the jar

    2. You got no choice,
    this is no request
    Should you refuse,
    We'll put an end to your success
    For your protection we'll keep you confined, boy
    Won't give you the freedom to make up your own mind
    You want the job, do ya?
    Fill the jar

    Well if your gay then it's okay to exercise your rights
    The company will even pay for that abortion for your wife
    But if you smoke that evil weed or take a snort on Saturday night
    When we find out about your evil deeds then you can kiss your job goodbye- HA!

    3. Don't wanna hear no complaining 'bout your rights
    You want the job you gotta make some sacrifice
    You only work for us from nine to five, but
    we want control of your entire life
    You want the job, do ya?
    Fill the jar

  11. [11] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    [2] Stig: Basically McGruff in a tye dye shirt, with headband, beads and shades.

    I think we can finally retire that old stereotype.

    I honestly believe that one of the impediments to legalization is the tendency of local newscasters to giggle and wink every time the issue comes up.

    And a pot-smoking dog might be construed as a version of 'Joe Camel', if you know what I mean.

    I think it might be better (and funnier) to compare toking up in the car to filling the car with mischievous elves, with the tag: "Don't drive distracted!"

  12. [12] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    Note to politicians: you might be pleasantly surprised to see how many folks re-join the work force once the spectre of failing a test for marijuana is removed.

  13. [13] 
    TheStig wrote:

    Balthasar -11

    OK, maybe I was a bit too glib, but I find winking and giggling among newscasters to be a VERY good sign in the effort to decriminalize's a far cry from the stern faced hectoring of news media during roughly the period covering 1930's...'40's,'50s','60's....2000's...right up to a few years ago. Current marijuana laws are beginning to look like Prohibition 2 to large majority of the population. Winking and giggling is better than fear mongering...and I perceive a lot of the humor is directed against current marijuana laws, not the reformers or the entrepreneurs eager to make a buck on the common human urge to get intoxicated.

    As joints etc. become commercial products, I predict marketing mascots taking on the same role as Spuds MacKenzie did for Bud Lite and legions of 80's frat boys and sorority girls. Legalization will not be entirely pretty, there are significant downsides, but I'm very confident it will much better social policy than the present day approach. When heavy tobacco smoker John Boehner (aka Mr. Merlot) jumps on board, you know the old game is about up.

    My fictional ROFFFF isn't selling THC - he is fighting against against stupid laws that have been aggressively marketed by politicians, law enforcement and the usual band of American neo-Puritans aided by corporate media eager for a sensational, albeit inaccurate, story. Throw in a bit of class warfare and racism too. What's wrong with turning the tables and taking a bite out of those asses? Sic 'en ROFFFF.

  14. [14] 
    TheStig wrote:

    Rudy Giuliani did not have a very good first day on the job of being the Republican Avenatti on the cable TV circuit. Don't worry Rudy, it happens to nearly everybody, no matter how high falutin' that job is, or seems to be.

  15. [15] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    BashiBazouk [9] -

    Thanks for the link, and a very excellent point. Without having read the article yet, I remember a similar story a few years back, on the federal level. It was either computer geeks the feds wanted to hire (anti-hackers), or maybe spies at the CIA -- either way, the feds had to admit that to get the best people, they had to relax their anti-weed extremist rules.

    Balthasar -

    Cheech and Chong could make some rather interesting PSAs... did you see their recent bit on late-night? I can dig it up if you want me to...

    This may also be relevant, although I just saved the link and haven't read it yet, I admit:

    TheStig [13] -

    Yeah, it was always rumored (back to the 1970s) that all the tobacco companies had already registered trademarks for things like "Maui Wowee" and "Panama Red" and whatnot...

    It also brings to mind "A Child's Garden Of Grass: Acquiring Marijuana"...



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