Legal Marijuana Now Party Press
Legal Marijuana Now advocates petition to get pro-marijuana third-party on the ballot
SPIKE JORDAN Staff Reporter May 12, 2017
Krystal Gabel and Mark Elworth Jr, members of Legal Marijuana Now Nebraska chapter from Omaha, petition on the corner of Ave. B and 27th St. in Scottsbluff, Friday, May 12. In two days, the duo has gained about 200 signatures on their petition to get the Legal Marijuana Now party on the ballot in Nebraska.
Krystal Gabel of Omaha, and Colton Charles of Morrill stand on the corner of Ave. B and 27th St. waving to traffic in support of a petition for Legal Marijuana Now Nebraska. The group's goal is to get enough signatures to add a third-party, the Legal Marijuana Now Party, on the Nebraska Ballot.
Amelia Miller of Scottsbluff, signs a petition to get the Legal Marijuana Now party on the ballot in Nebraska. on the corner of Ave. B and 27th St. in Scottsbluff, Friday, May 12.
SCOTTSBLUFF — Advocates for a “greener” third-party were in Scottsbluff Thursday and Friday, collecting signatures to get the Legal Marijuana Now party on the ballot in Nebraska.
Legal Marijuana Now is a political third-party in the United States established in 1998 to oppose drug prohibition. Its goal is to get pro-marijuana candidates into elections and voters into polling places.
“Nebraska is really difficult to get a ballot initiative, like a constitutional amendment or referendum, on the ballot,” Omaha resident Krystal Gabel from Legal Marijuana Now Nebraska said. “You collect signatures, and they deny access.”
Rather than trying to repeat the same past mistakes with referendums, Gabel and fellow Omaha resident Mark Elworth Jr. are taking a different route and have been trying to petition and activate voters.
“We think there’s another way around it — it’s getting candidates on the ballot and bringing out voters to vote for third-party,” Gabel said. “We’re basically in a one-party state, and so many people don’t even come out and vote.”
Legal Marijuana Now has tried for years to get the party on the Nebraska ballot, but it hasn’t been an easy fight.
“Last year we turned in our petition, the state invalidated the signatures,” Elworth said. “Last year we turned in 9,000 signatures, and we needed 5,600 good ones. They said we had about 5,000 wrong, so they discounted a lot of those.”
Elworth said they were going to re-do the petition, this time with a 15,000-signature goal in mind. In the last two days, they’ve garnered about 200 signatures.
“We’re in a lot better shape for next year,” Elworth said. “We feel like they cheated us last year.”
Gabel and Elworth have both been in races for city council in Omaha. In the 2016 national election, Elworth appeared on ballots in Iowa and Minnesota as a vice-presidential candidate for the Legal Marijuana Now party along with Dan Vacek of Minnesota.
Pro-marijuana efforts have also been making it through the Nebraska Legislature. This session, Sen. Anna Wishart of Lincoln, introduced LB 622, which would legalize medical marijuana in Nebraska. The Legislature’s Judiciary Committee advanced the bill, 6-1, and has an amendment pending in committee.
“There is an opioid problem, and there are good Nebraskans who don’t want to be on drugs, they don’t want to have a drug problem, and they trust their doctors,” Elowrth said. “We feel medical marijuana is a safer alternative, and I hope the governor changes his mind.”
If Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts opts to veto LB 622, Gabel plans on challenging him in the 2018 race for governor, should the petition get the Legal Marijuana Now party on the ballot.
Interview with Dan Vacek, Legal Marijuana Now Presidential Nominee
by Peter B. Gemma
In 1998, Legal Marijuana Now was organized as a grass roots movement to coordinate petition drives to place pro-cannabis candidates on Minnesota ballots. Legal Marijuana Now earned recognition as a political party in the state when its candidate, Dan Vacek, earned 57,604 votes (three percent) in the 2014 race for Minnesota Attorney General. For the 2016 election, the Legal Marijuana Now (LMN) ticket of Dan Vacek and Mark Elworth will be on the ballot in Iowa and Minnesota.
Vacek is a financial caseworker with Ramsey County (Minnesota) Human Services.
Peter B. Gemma: I appreciate your taking time for this interview. You have said that, “legalization of cannabis would enhance public safety.” Please explain that statement.
Dan Vacek: We must end prohibition and begin to heal the civil unrest in America. Cannabis prohibition endangers public safety by fostering corruption, curtailing civil liberties, and perpetuating racism.
Gemma: Single-issue political parties have a history of influence in elections and impacting on public policy. Ironically, the Prohibition Party is a good example. Also, New York’s Right to Life Party has proven its clout by cross-endorsing candidates. Do you believe the Legal Marijuana Now Party can already claim some successes?
Vacek: I believe the average person is ready for legalization now. A hurdle today is the effort of learning civics in order to change the law. We know third parties are an important part of the way to do that.
Gemma: Before we get into the specifics of decriminalization, I’d like to ask you about your positions on some other issues. You are on record as supporting an increase in funding for homeless shelters, spending more on housing assistance for welfare recipients, and federal funding of elections. Where would this money come from?
Vacek: The money raised in a legal cannabis market and money saved by closing prisons will go a long way toward paying for the things that people really need.
Gemma: You have said that legalization of cannabis would “improve foreign relations.” You favor eliminating CIA appropriations and “greatly decreasing” funding for a National Missile Defense Program. What’s your take on the threat of terrorism?
Vacek: We should help our allies. America should not bully other countries. We should end our dependence on foreign oil by re-legalizing the plant cannabis, hemp, for biomass. And that is just the beginning.
Gemma: You support raising the minimum wage – how much of an increase? Wouldn’t that hurt small businesses?
Vacek: Small businesses are among the first to benefit from improvement in the economy when workers are paid living wages.
Gemma: Is there a need to enact federal as well as state statutes to decriminalize marijuana? Would there be a federal tax on legalized marijuana?
Vacek: Yes, I believe that people who consume cannabis have the same rights as anyone else. And I believe very strongly that prejudice and discrimination in any form cannot be tolerated. I do not believe that cannabis should be taxed because cannabis is food and medicine. Enough new taxes will be raised peripherally, in a legal market, with creation of new jobs.
Gemma: Referenda on decriminalization will appear on five state ballots this year – Maine, Nevada, California, Arizona, and Massachusetts. What do you think the prospects are for passage?
Vacek: Not all of them will pass. But some of the citizens’ initiatives for legalization will be successful this year. The struggle for freedom never ends.
Gemma: Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson is CEO of a publicly traded marijuana company and his party has long supported legalization of marijuana. The Green Party platform states, “Cannabis/Hemp is to be legalized, regulated, and controlled like cigarettes and alcohol.” The Libertarians are ballot qualified in 50 states and the Greens in 45 states – both are in good position to recruit new advocates and raise the profile of the issue. Is the LMN Party siphoning off votes from them? Wouldn’t your case be strengthened if the Greens and Libertarians make a good showing?
Vacek: I believe that we are stronger when we join together. The Legal Marijuana Now Party and the Libertarian Party of Minnesota have both endorsed Andrew Henderson, a candidate for Little Canada Council, in the November 8 election. Legal Marijuana Now has cross-endorsed candidates with the Green Party in the past. I hope we find more ways to unite in the future.
Gemma: The Marijuana Policy Project gave both Johnson and Stein “A+” ratings on its presidential scorecard. Where do you differ with them?
Vacek: A protest vote for a Legal Marijuana Now candidate is very clear. Every vote matters in any election. What is the message that a Green or Libertarian vote sends? Although I agree with many of the other things those parties represent, I want to shout a strong, clear message.
Gemma: Who is funding opposition to legalization – why?
Vacek: I know that opposition to the referendum that would allow medical cannabis in Florida is being funded primarily by a treatment industry shareholder. And in Minnesota, it was the police union that intimidated legislators who were considering a very weak medical law here. The prison industry, the pharmaceutical, alcoholic beverage and tobacco industries – in all cases, money is the underlying reason.
Gemma: Support for legalization, although growing more popular, is not as intense as those who are opposed. A Gallup poll survey revealed that 47 percent oppose legalization. A Pew Research poll found that 51 percent of Americans would “feel uncomfortable”
in the presence of individuals using marijuana. How do you approach skeptics and opponents with the idea of decriminalizing marijuana?
Vacek: That is called “reeferphobia.” And that kind of hatred is wrong because people are hurt by it.
Gemma: Wouldn’t just concentrating on medical marijuana be an easy first step?
Vacek: We have taken that first step across much of the country, including to a limited degree my own state of Minnesota. Most people are ready for the next step.
Gemma: Tell me about your running mate, Mark Elworth.
Vacek: Mark Elworth, who comes from Nebraska, is a champion. Mark is a levelheaded, hard-working organizer. We would not be here without him.
Gemma: Finally, how would you define a victory for the Legal Marijuana Now Party in this year’s election?
Vacek: I consider it to be a victory every time that we register and bring to the polls even one more new voter. And thank you for giving me this opportunity
About Peter B. Gemma
Peter B. Gemma, an award-winning freelance writer, has penned more than 100 commentaries for USA Today and written for such publications as TheDailyCaller.com, The Washington Examiner, AmericanThinker.com. and Op/EdNews.
This entry was posted in Independent Political Report on October 19, 2016, by Peter B. Gemma
Q & A with the Legal Marijuana Now Party of Minnesota
by INTERVIEW BY JIM BRASH, NORTH STAR EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER on APRIL 21, 2016
(The following is an interview featuring responses by Legal Marijuana Now Party of Minnesota co-founders Oliver Steinberg and Dan Vacek.)
TNS: Why did you split from the Grassroots Party in 1996?
The Legal Marijuana Now Party began as an experiment in 1998 by Dan Vacek, who had previously been the Grassroots Party congressional candidate three times but wanted to try putting the principle itself onto the ballot.
TNS: From photo on your website it seems that all your members are white. How has that affected your work with communities of color in Minnesota? Are you actively recruiting from communities of color? How has that recruitment effort been going?
We’d like to engage more Spanish speaking people, in order to reach a cross-section that is representative of Minnesota.
And currently, the Legal Marijuana Now Party is seeking more women to become involved.
Please look at the photo album of Legal Marijuana Now supporters who came to our booth at the Minnesota State Fair last year. They’re representative of typical Minnesotans, young and old, single people and families, people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds:
TNS: How has the criminalization of marijuana contributed to mass incarceration and the bottom line of the prison industrial complex?
Arrests for cannabis offenses constitute a large majority of all narcotics arrests; draconian mandatory sentencing funnels prisoners into long terms of confinement; the for-profit prison industry that did not exist in modern times until the escalation of the “drug war” clearly depends on narcotics prisoners for its existence. [M. Alexander: “… drug offenses, not violent crime, have propelled mass incarceration.”] Note that actual narcotics convictions aren’t the only way the drug laws fill the prisons. Parole or probation revocations are triggered by drug testing results, and those tests chiefly reveal cannabis use because its metabolites are detectable far longer than other drugs.
TNS: What would decriminalization and legalization do for Minnesota and the nation?
Legalization of cannabis would enhance public safety; reduce expenses for law enforcement and courts; create new sources of tax revenue; generate multitudes of new businesses and new job opportunities; provide therapeutic treatment to millions of patients now denied it; probably reduce alcohol and hard drug abuse; improve foreign relations; and if we’re lucky, it would help restore personal privacy and civil liberties which have been violated and abrogated by prohibition.
Furthermore, it would give minority communities—disproportionately and deliberately targeted by repressive enforcement—a chance to try to recover from “the new Jim Crow.” [M. Alexander: “Prior drug wars were ancillary to the prevailing caste system. This time the drug war is the system of control.”]
TNS: Are there economic reasons for marijuana and hemp not being legal?
Yes. Prohibition directly benefits a large range of special economic interests.
First, the bloated law enforcement apparatus—police, courts, so-called correctional institutions and associated bureaucracies, the for-profit prison industry, ancillary industries supplying weapons and other tools to the enforcers; also the related “drug treatment” industry which is something of a racket.
Second, actual racketeers and organized criminals, who profit from the black market.
Third, those industries threatened by potential competition from cannabis, especially the liquor and pharmaceutical interests, who have furnished the big bucks behind Partnership for Drug-Free America and similar scams.
Fourth, those interests threatened by potential competition from industrial hemp (pulp paper, cotton & synthetic fiber, construction supplies, petrochemicals, etc.)
TNS: What would hemp cultivation, the processing of it into various goods do for Minnesota’s economy? What would it do for our national economy?
Industrial hemp would provide a more diversified agricultural production in Minnesota, where we grew tens of thousands of acres of hemp and ran eleven hemp mills during World War II. The industrial possibilities for food, fuel, fiber, paper, and other products are tremendous. Hemp had declined to niche crop status by the 1930s but new processing techniques and new uses promise a more robust future, once marijuana prohibition is removed. Nationally, hemp cultivation and processing would help our balance of trade and economic self-sufficiency.
TNS: What type of battles did you fight to gain status as an officially recognized political party in Minnesota?
A number of steps are required. And it isn’t easy. The petition period for candidates, in Minnesota, is just two short weeks at the end of May. Getting thousands of signatures in that period of time is a monumental accomplishment!
Please understand, then, Legal Marijuana Now Party took it personally when DFL and GOP suspended public financing we had earned, during the following legislative session.
TNS: How has the fight been shaping up for ballot access and legalization in Nebraska?
In Nebraska, the Legal Marijuana Now ballot access petition drive needed about 6,000 signatures in order to become an officially recognized major party. It’s not an easy task because 2,000 of the signatures must come from each of the three congressional districts. Fewer than 1,000 signatures are needed at this time. And the deadline is August, so Nebraska is ahead of schedule.
Iowa has begun petitioning but isn’t so far along. Some of the Omaha volunteers are working overtime to finish in Nebraska in order to lend a hand in Iowa next.
TNS: What lessons were learned from the Dan Vacek campaign 1998? How did it inform what the Dan Vacek campaign did in 2014?
The 1998 effort demonstrated that placing the phrase “Legal Marijuana Now” on the ballot could attract a noticeable protest vote even without the resources for an organized, more conventional type of campaign. This precedent proved prescient, and as circumstances in 2014 were the same: no money, no name recognition, no organization, ignored by media, squeezed by other and better-positioned minor party competition, nevertheless the basic strategy succeeded: securing the greatest share of the protest votes.
TNS: What were the successes of Dan Vacek’s 2014 campaign beyond ballot access and official recognition?
The 2014 campaign’s greatest success was simply putting the taboo proposition “Legal Marijuana” onto the ballot despite Minnesota’s not having the ballot initiative option. We put the message there anyway. Another important result was reflected in the fact that the higher-profile, better-funded, better-qualified, better-organized minor party candidates all received fewer votes than Mr. Vacek did.
TNS: What were lessons learned from the Zach Phelps campaign for Minnesota state senate back in February of this year?
One lesson above all: on Election Day, contact your voters and get them to vote. Advertising, social media, other campaign activity is wasted without turning out the votes. In a district campaign, door-to-door or other personal contact is crucial. A third lesson is that we can expect extraordinary and antagonistic opposition—such as the pressure applied to a businessman who let us petition at his store. Also, we learned that reliable volunteers are hard to come by, for our party, and we need to find more of them within the district. Finally, we learned that there are no short cuts.
TNS: Would you consider being part of an electoral coalition with the greens and/or libertarians? If so or if not, why?
Legal Marijuana Now Party enjoys working together with both the Green Party of Minnesota and the Libertarian Party of Minnesota.
During the 2015 municipal elections, last November, Golden Valley Council candidate Andy Schuler was co-endorsed by Green Party, Ecology Democracy Party, and Legal Marijuana Now. And a candidate for Saint Paul Council had the endorsement of both Legal Marijuana Now Party and the Libertarian Party of Minnesota.
Municipal elections are non-partisan, so the party designations of those candidates didn’t appear on ballots. However, in coming elections, a candidate who is co-endorsed could choose a ballot designation combining the names, such as Green-Libertarian-Cannabis.
TNS: What are the plans for this party beyond 2016?
Time will tell.
TNS: What would you say to young people just getting involved with legalization and decriminalization advocacy?
In the words of Thomas Paine: “Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered,” and in the words of Frederick Douglass: “Power concedes nothing without a demand; it never did and it never will. … The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress …”
In the words of Lord Byron: “Who would be free themselves must strike the blow.”
And in the words of Bob Marley, “Don’t gain the world and lose your soul; Wisdom is better than silver or gold …”
TNS: Thank you for your time and good luck with building the movement for marijuana legalization in Minnesota?
Thank you for your support and for giving us this opportunity.
This interview was first published here.
PLATFORM IN SPECIAL
By Jon Gettman February 09, 2016
Legal Marijuana Now is both a campaign slogan and the name of a political party in Minnesota advancing another model for getting the legalization issue before state legislatures.
A member of the party, Zach Phelps, is seeking election in a February 9 special election for a vacant District 35 State Senate seat in the Minnesota legislature. Minnesota does not utilize voter-initiated ballot measures and cannot enact legalization by popular vote. Minnesota voters can nominate candidates for the legislature by way of petition, and this is how Phelps secured a place on the ballot. Given low voter turnout in special elections, there is a great opportunity for motivated local voters to prevail.
The Legal Marijuana Now party is a successor to the Grassroots Party and is a recognized minor party under Minnesota law. The party ran Jack Herer as their presidential candidate in 1988 and 1992. Their candidate for attorney general received 57,000 votes in 2014, mainly on the strength of their name, which appears on the ballot.
Marijuana is decriminalized in Minnesota, and the state has a medical marijuana program which, according to Legal Marijuana Now only provides access to about five percent of all patients.
A victory in this special election would increase attention to legalization issues in the state, as would Phelps’ legislative agenda. Phelps intends to push for marijuana legalization in Minnesota if elected, and highlights its medical use, safety compared to alcohol and tobacco, and economic benefits to the state in his platform.
The political class and the two party system has been resistant to providing leadership for legalization efforts.
The successful use of the initiative system in many states to enact legalization measures also validates the need to find other ways to bypass local political structures. Third party candidates often fail, but even electoral failure can influence the positions and platforms of other candidates and of the primary political parties. Third party candidates mobilize voter support for specific issues, and other candidates migrate toward these issues in order to increase their own political and electoral support.
Minnesota should be a receptive state to the legalization of cannabis.
About 12.3 percent of Minnesota’s voters (those 18 and older) use marijuana on a monthly basis. The state’s voters are generally liberal, frequently voting Democratic in presidential elections. In addition to marijuana decriminalization laws and their medical marijuana program, Minnesota has a long standing preference of using alternatives to incarceration in their criminal justice system.
But in order to get the state to discuss and consider legalization, the issue has to be brought before the legislature.
Lobbying by citizens, activists, and advocacy groups is one way to do this. Getting a legislator elected who is dedicated to pushing the issue within the statehouse is another—and perhaps equally effective. Lobbyists come and go, colleagues are not only present, their votes are needed.
Legalization has become a hot topic. Initiatives have created a lot of momentum, and the advocacy groups making these electoral victories happen deserve a great deal of credit and gratitude from legalization supporters around the country. These great efforts, though, should be a call to action, especially in states where the initiative process is not available.
Zach Phelps’ candidacy is a great example of taking advantage of opportunities to push for legalization.
It’s creative and resourceful and demonstrates leadership at the local level. There’s a lot to learn here for legalization supporters throughout the country. If state legislators won’t consider marijuana legalization, it’s a good idea to find ways to get new state legislators.
Supporters for marijuana legalization need to advance the issue through both conventional and unconventional means—this means lobbying, working for supportive candidates and running for office themselves.
This story was first published here.
Prepared & paid for by the Legal Marijuana Now Party 4154 Vincent Ave N. Minneapolis MN 55412. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate committee.