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Executive Summary

NORML Congressional Scorecard

We are pleased to present this valuable voter education tool to the marijuana movement: NORML’s updated and revised 2016 Congressional Scorecard. The Scorecard is an all-encompassing database that assigns a letter grade 'A' through 'F' to members of Congress based on their marijuana-related comments and voting records. Be sure you’re registered to vote so that you can #TakeAction on Election Day in support of marijuana-friendly candidates and marijuana law reform!

THE TIME IS NOW

With the 2016 presidential election drawing closer and statewide marijuana initiatives qualified for the ballot in nine states, we need YOU to make it out to the polls to support ending cannabis prohibition. Join us in celebrating National Voter Registration Day by double-checking your status as a voter and encouraging your friends and family to do the same. Take a look at how we graded your members of Congress and bring that information with you to the polls on Election Day!

Now more than ever, there exists majority public support for ending America's nearly century-long experiment with cannabis prohibition and replacing it with a taxed and regulated adult marketplace. Although many members of Congress are increasingly becoming aware of this changing public sentiment, federal leadership on the issue of marijuana law reform is still sorely lacking. The ongoing conflict between state and federal cannabis policy remains an unnecessary impediment to those jurisdictions wishing to fully explore the wide range of regulatory options before them. Ultimately, this is a conflict that can only be resolved by Congress, which possesses the authority to amend federal law.

KEY FINDINGS

Below are the key findings from NORML’s updated Congressional Scorecard. Among the 535 members of the 114th Congress:

  • 330 members (62%) received a passing grade of ‘C’ or higher (270 Representatives and 60 Senators)
  • Of these, 22 members (4%) received a grade of ‘A’ (20 Representatives and 2 Senators)
  • 254 members (47%) received a ‘B’ grade (218 Representatives and 36 Senators)
  • 54 members (10%) received a ‘C’ grade (32 Representatives and 22 Senators)
  • 172 members (32%) received a ‘D’ grade (149 Representatives and 23 Senators)
  • 32 members (6%) received a failing grade (16 Representatives and 16 Senators)
  • 60 Senators (60%) received a passing grade of a C or higher (Two A’s, 36 B’s, and 22 C’s)
  • 270 Representatives (62%) received a passing grade of a C or higher (20 A’s, 218 B’s, and 32 C’s)
  • Of the 233 Democrats in Congress, 215 (92%) received a passing grade of a ‘C’ or higher
  • Of the 302 Republicans in Congress, 113 members (37%) received a passing grade of ‘C’ or higher

It is clear from this analysis that support for substantive marijuana law reform is far less pronounced among elected officials than it is among the voters they represent. While greater than 6 in 10 American adults believe that "the use of marijuana should be made legal," only 4 percent of Congressional members received an 'A' grade based upon their voting record and/or public statements.

Also evident is that Congressional support for marijuana law reform is largely a partisan issue. While more than nine out of ten Democrats express support for some level of reform, just over one-third of Republicans hold similar positions. This partisanship lies in contrast to voters' sentiments, which tend to view the subject as a non-partisan issue. For example, recent polls from swing states show that super-majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents endorse medical marijuana legalization. Further, most Republican voters embrace principles of federalism with regard to cannabis policy. Nonetheless, Republican support for this position remains marginal among members of Congress.

HOW NORML'S CONGRESSIONAL SCORECARD IS CALCULATED

The Congressional Scorecard grades members of the United States House and Senate on an 'A' to 'F' scale.

  • An 'A' letter grade indicates that this member has publicly declared his/her support for the legalization and regulation of marijuana for adults.
  • A 'B' letter grade indicates that this member supports policies specific to the legalization of medical cannabis and/or the decriminalization of cannabis.
  • A 'C' letter grade indicates that this member has publicly declared his/her support for the ability of a state to move forward with cannabis law reform policies free from federal interference.
  • A 'D' letter grade indicates that this member has expressed no support for any significant marijuana law reform
  • An 'F' letter grade indicates that this member expresses significant and vocal opposition to marijuana law reform

NORML's grading is based upon members' 2015 and 2016 voting records, whether or not a member has sponsored or cosponsored legislation specific to federal marijuana law reform, whether or not a member has sponsored marijuana-related amendments, and/or their public statements or testimony.

Despite a number of marijuana--related measures pending before the 114th Congress, no bill has yet to receive a vote in committee or on the floor. By contrast, members of both chambers have decided on several cannabis-specific amendments attached to various appropriations bills.

To calculate House members 2016 grades, NORML weighed four marijuana-specific votes:

  • The 2015/16 Veteran's Equal Access Amendment: This language permits physicians affiliated with the US Department of Veterans Affairs to recommend cannabis therapy to veterans in states that allow for its therapeutic use.
  • The 2015 McClintock/Polis Amendment: This language, which was defeated by the House, sought to prohibit the Department of Justice from interfering with state-specific, adult use marijuana laws.
  • The 2015 Rohrabacher/Farr Amendment: This language, which was passed by the House, prohibits the Department of Justice from interfering with state-specific medical marijuana programs that license the production and dispensing of cannabis to qualified patients.

To calculate Senate members 2016 grades, NORML weighed six marijuana-specific votes:

  • The 2015/16 Daines/Merkley Amendment: This language permits physicians affiliated with the US Department of Veterans Affairs to recommend cannabis therapy to veterans in states that allow for its therapeutic use.
  • The 2015/16 Mikulski Amendment: This language prohibits the Department of Justice from interfering with state-specific medical marijuana programs that license the production and dispensing of cannabis to qualified patients.
  • The 2015/16 Merkley Amendment: This language prohibits the US Treasury Department from using federal funds to take punitive actions against banks and other financial institutions that provide services to marijuana-related businesses that are operating legally under state laws.

WHAT'S NEXT

Voters' opinions with regard to cannabis policy are well ahead of that of their elected officials. While many advocates have been working tirelessly to amend their local and state marijuana, proponents must also engage in concerted efforts to educate federally elected officials. Here's how:

  • Become an engaged voter. This means making sure you are registered to vote and you know who your federally elected officials are and where they stand on the issue of marijuana law reform. NORML's Congressional Scorecard can help you get started. Also visit our Election 2016 page to learn about the status of pending ballot initiatives in your state.
  • Urge your elected officials to take action. Use NORML's #TakeAction Center to stay up to date on pending federal legislation and use our pre-written letters to contact your members and urge their support. Visitors to NORML's #TakeAction Center have sent over 142,000 letters to members of Congress in the past year.
  • Team up with other advocates. Coordinating with local advocates through a NORML Chapter makes federally elected officials aware that voters are organizing in their district. Organizing locally also helps advocates build a consistent message.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and get ready for Election Day 2016! Use the hashtags #NVRD #smokethevote and #NORML so we can follow how you #TakeAction for National Voter Registration Day!

The information provided in the scorecard will periodically be updated as needed. Any questions, comments, or concerns specific to the scorecard are welcome and can be sent to: politics@norml.org.

Important and timely publications such as this are only made possible when concerned citizens become involved with NORML. Please consider making a donation today so we may continue to work towards legalization and providing you the tools necessary to be an informed voter.