One sign of progress is when former opponents become allies in the fight for change. That's exactly what happened June 7 when former Massachusetts Governor William Weld said that he would support the 2016 ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana use in Massachusetts.
That's a significant change in position for Weld, who was tasked with enforcing the War on Drugs while working for the Department of Justice during the Reagan Administration. According to conservative journalist W. James Antle III, Weld used to brag about busting "drug thugs" during his time as a U.S. Attorney overseeing federal law in Massachusetts. But now he wants to repeal instead of enforce federal prohibition.
Weld - who is the current vice-presidential candidate for the 2016 Libertarian Party ticket - credits his conversion to running mate Gary Johnson. "I'm not absolutely sure that I would have been for that [legalization] before spending as much time as I have with Gary Johnson," he said during an event hosted by public policy think tank MassINC. "He's very much in favor of the legalization of marijuana."
Weld added that he is also willing to discuss decriminalizing other drugs as a way to combat the lucrative black market in America's banned substances
"I do think there's something to the idea that by decriminalizing something, you take it out of the shadows," he said on Tuesday. "And then the incentives are not there for the bad guys to do massive criminal sales. Again, you wouldn't have heard it from me when I was in the Justice Department."
Weld boosts legalization movement in Massachusetts
The Johnson-Weld ticket has a slim chance of winning the Nov. 8 election and repealing federal marijuana prohibition. But Weld's endorsement of Massachusetts' Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) could help make legalization a reality in the Bay State.
The significance of Weld - the first former Massachusetts governor to endorse the ballot initiative - wasn't lost on Michael Crawford, a writer and activist based in Boston.
"This helps reverse the [mainstream] media narrative that most if not all major current and former state elected officials are against legalization," Crawford told Civilized. "We're starting to see some State Senate and Rep campaigns that do support legalization and this endorsement, I believe, will only increase that support."
Crawford added that libertarian-leaning Republican voters and state-level politicians, in particular, are likely to be swayed by Weld's endorsement.
"As the Republican Party is very weak in this state, there's likely a substantial percentage in the [party] that considers itself libertarian on social issues such as marijuana reform...I believe this will help the CRMLA campaign and may be a big reason why we start to see some of their campaigns coming out in support of legalization."
But the endorsement did lose at least one vote for Weld. Current Republican Governor Charlie Baker once held a cabinet position in the Weld administration. But Crawford says Baker won't back his old boss on the marijuana issue in Massachusetts or in the Johnson-Weld presidential campaign
"Baker is not supporting Clinton nor Trump and has stated though he has great respect for Weld, he won't swing libertarian due to this legalization issue."