In the middle of a tumultuous presidential election, in which one candidate threatens to have the other candidate arrested should he win (as if this were a third-world country with no political institutions), it is tempting to just tune-out of politics and refuse to participate. Without a doubt, we have managed to nominate one candidate for president who, according to President Obama, "says stuff that nobody would find tolerable if they were applying for a job at 7-Eleven" — let alone run our country.
And he has demonstrated a lack of respect for women, as evidenced by his comments that he made on the 2005 "Access Hollywood" tape, in which he brags he can grope women without consent due to his standing as a “star.” Since the tapes came out, his subsequent video apology, and his claim at the second presidential debate that he did not actually grope women, more than a half-dozen women have come out with stories of Trump's alleged improper behavior. Trump has categorically denied these allegations.
It is truly an ugly political contest that has coarsened the political discussion and embarrassed the country both internally and with our foreign allies.
But the election is too important to sit out.
On November, we will be making an extraordinarily important decision whether to elect Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton or Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
And taking the easy way out – that is, by refusing to participate in the political process by not voting – is precisely the wrong response. By missing the opportunity to cast your vote against Trump, you are missing the chance to help the country make a strong statement: rejecting both Trump and all the prejudice and bigotry he has demonstrated in his campaign — from calling Mexicans rapists, to calling women "pigs" and "dogs," to saying he would ban Muslims immigrants or establish "extreme vetting."
And don’t forget about Congress.
And separate from the presidential race, there are 435 member of the House of Representatives up for re-election, many with challengers trying to offer a better alternative; as well as 34 (out of 100) U.S. Senators up for re-election. Those willing to take the time to learn about the voting records of your House and Senate members need only check their voting report card prepared by NORML.
Although Congress is slow to change, especially with social issues, we have seen more support for ending marijuana prohibition at the federal level during the last two years than we have ever seen, and with each new legalization state, our support in Congress increases.
Legalization on the ballot in five states.
And this November there will be full legalization voter initiatives on the ballot in five states, including most importantly California (the most populous state in the nation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2014). Should we win all of these — and the polling is currently pointing towards victory in all five — that will be the final tipping point to end marijuana prohibition in this country, and adopt legalization, leaving us with 25 percent of the country living under state marijuana legalization.
In addition, four states will have medical use voter initiatives, including the states of Florida and Arkansas, two conservative Southern states that could open far more conservative states to the possibility of adopting medical use as well in the coming years. There is simply no turning back.
So please do your part and vote. There is a lot of be embarrassed by in this current campaign, but there is also the possibility of rejecting this current climate and moving the marijuana legalization movement forward in a significant manner.
Living in a democracy, we have the incredible privilege of voting for our elected officials, and sometimes directly for our public policies. People in many parts of the world have no such power to improve their own lives. So let’s exercise our sacred right to cast our votes for people and policies that will help bring our nation together. And let’s keep marijuana legalization moving forward all across this great country.
Keith Stroup is a Washington, D.C. public-interest attorney who founded NORML in 1970.