November 2019

‘The tribe has taken over’: the Native Americans running Las Vegas’ only cannabis lounge

Nevada law restricts marijuana consumption to private residences until 2021, but sovereignty exempts the Las Vegas Paiute

A couple seated at a high top table smoked a joint, while six tourists in a circular booth nearby drank THC-infused beer and reviewed the flower menu. It was the morning of the Southern Paiutes traditional hunt, when tribal youth learn to shoot and harvest mule deer as adult providers, but Benny Tso, 43, was stuck in the Las Vegas Paiutes new cannabis tasting room, taking meetings and making calls.

The Tudinu, or desert people, from whom the Las Vegas Paiute descend, have lived in southern Nevada for more than 1,000 years, spending summers in the mountains and winters by a valley spring until the area was taken over by white settlers. They worked as ranch hands for several decades, and in 1970, the Las Vegas Paiutes became recognized as a sovereign nation, after which they launched several businesses.

In 2017, they opened the NuWu Cannabis Marketplace, a glass-walled, big box structure that half resembles a car dealership.NuWu which means the people in Southern Paiute sits on the tribes colony one mile away from the neon-lit Fremont Street Experience.

Last month, NuWu became the go-to dispensary for many in Las Vegas, and not just because its the only one with a drive-thru window. NuWu opened Nevadas first cannabis tasting room in October. Sovereignty exempts them from a law that restricts marijuana consumption to private residences until 1 July 2021.

On that date, Sin City will no doubt host the kitschiest, most glammed-out cannabis party scene in the world. A dispensary with galactic scale, Planet 13, already has a restaurant and caf space inside its 112,000-sq-ft marijuana superstore near the Las Vegas Strip. But for the next 21 months, this 55-member Southern Paiute band has the pot lounge business all to itself.

We laughed at first about it. Like, oh crap, were going to be weed dealers? said Tso, who served as the tribal council chair for over 10 years. After we got the jokes aside, we started digging into the numbers. It was just a different way to generate revenue for the tribe when we realized we needed to do something to put our people in better situations.

Within a year and half this is going to compete with our other businesses, Tso said of NuWu Cannabis Marketplace. I think weve prolonged our tribe by three to four more generations.

Customers
Customers gather at the NUWU Tasting Room on Saturday 5 October 2019. Photograph: Jeff Scheid/The Guardian

He noted that federal assistance for healthcare, education and law enforcement services has dwindled since the recession. In fact, a 2018 report by the US Commission on Civil Rights titled Broken Promises called the funding status for Indian country grossly inadequate.

There are 560 some odd treaties between the US government and tribes, and none of them have been honored, Tso said. But with this business weve created, well balance out some of those shortfalls.

Located in a neighborhood with multiple cemeteries, tow yards and homeless shelters, the Southern Paiutes cannabis lounge is off the beaten path. But one afternoon last month, Jessica, a Las Vegas local, celebrated her 26th birthday by inhaling smoke from a dab rig that the bartender lit for her.

Dan, an accountant from Denver, ordered a bong hit. This would be a great place to bring my folks, he said. They love to come to Vegas and throw convention out the window.

Occasionally, NuWu has to cut people off. But overall the experiment has gone so well that two to three other Native American tribes visit each week to learn about the industry some are calling the new new buffalo, a reference to the term used for casinos when the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act passed in 1988.

In a city saturated with gambling, where even laundromats and grocery stores have slot machines, the Las Vegas Paiutes never saw the casino business as a viable economic driver. Their main revenue source since 1970 has been a tobacco store that sells tax-free cigarettes.

The Paiute in an interesting way took advantage of this community that grew around them, said Michael Green, a history professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. When you go to Las Vegas, you dont take care of yourself, and casino culture, for locals who worked there, had a similar impact. Youre working all day with people smoking, drinking, and sometimes making considerable money. That became hard to resist, and the Paiutes did well financially knowing there were plenty of smokers in this area.

The strength and ingenuity theyve used to survive centuries of marginalization has parallels to the Las Vegas Paiutes creation story, which states that their ancestors roamed the desert as ants until a great flood forced them to crawl up a mountain and ascend trees. When the water receded, they returned to the ground and became two legs human beings and an especially communal, hardworking sort.

We do get teased because were city Indians, but a majority of us know our culture and thats the point, said Tso, whose arms are covered in tattoos of traditional Paiute symbols and tools. His community may need NuWu to be that mountain they climb in the event of a perfect storm, since the tobacco shop revenue plateaued years ago, right as healthcare costs rose to levels unmet by federal support.

Another challenge they face is a corporate invasion.

MedMen and other companies listed on the Canadian Securities Exchange now operate cannabis dispensaries near the Las Vegas strip. According to Dayvid Figler, an attorney who practices cannabis law in Nevada, The old school Vegas people, the local cultivators, the mom and pops, etc, who were the sole people in the industry are either all gone or have changed their roles.

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A view of the welcome sign on the Las Vegas Strip. Photograph: Valery Sharifulin/TASS

From a business standpoint its a very volatile terrain, he added. Youre getting reports of $30m, $45m, $100m for the transfers of marijuana licenses from establishments within Nevada to these corporate entities that have ownership outside the state.

The potential for crony capitalism in the Nevada cannabis industry was highlighted last month with the revelation that associates of Rudy Giuliani arrested in Donald Trumps Ukraine imbroglio unsuccessfully tried to enter the Las Vegas cannabis market through max donations to Republican candidates for governor and attorney general.

The Las Vegas resorts, too, have a stake in the future of the cannabis industry. Acting as the ultimate power broker, the resorts killed a cannabis lounge licensing bill in the 2017 legislature arguing that any marijuana use drifting on to their properties might lead federal regulators to revoke their gaming licenses. This year, the resorts convinced the governor to impose a three-year moratorium on cannabis lounges, and the Las Vegas city council banned such businesses from operating within 1,000ft of any casino.

In reality, [the resorts] didnt want the competition. Theyre hoping in two years marijuana will go legal federally, and then they can bring it inside the hotels, said the former state senator Tick Segerblom, who wrote the failed cannabis lounge bill.

Having co-authored the agreement that allowed the Las Vegas Paiutes into Nevadas cannabis industry, Segerblom (the rare politician with a pot strain named after him), took solace in their success. The marijuana industry is dominated by white people, but along comes this tribe and just takes over. Of all the things Ive done, this is the one Im most excited about.

They have outdoor grows taking place in northern Nevada on reservations where hundreds of people havent had jobs in forever, he added. Its a true minority group thats been screwed over since Christopher Columbus, and its just fitting justice. I sleep well at night.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

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First Cannabis-Based Medicines Have Been Approved For Use By England’s NHS

Two cannabis-based medicines have been approved for use by England’s National Health Service (NHS) for the first time. The medicines will be available to treat children with severe forms of two conditions, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis (MS).

It’s the first time drugs containing cannabis have been greenlit for routine use by NHS England by the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), the nation’s drug watchdog.

After reviewing cannabis-based medicines for multiple conditions, NICE has approved the use of Epidyolex to treat two types of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut (a form of childhood-onset epilepsy) and Dravet (infant epilepsy caused by fever) syndromes, both of which are considered treatment-resistant. The drug comes in the form of an oral solution of cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychoactive component in cannabis, which clinical trials have shown can help reduce the frequency of seizures by almost 50 percent in some children.

It is estimated there are up to 9,000 sufferers of Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet in the UK. The drug costs between £5,000 and £10,000 ($6,400 and $12,800) a year per patient but, BBC News reports, GW Pharmaceuticals, the British-based company that developed the drug, has agreed to a discounted price for the NHS.

NICE said more research was needed on cannabis-based medicines before it could approve them for other forms of epilepsy. GW Pharmaceuticals is currently exploring whether Epidyolex could benefit people with West syndrome and Tuberous Sclerosis Complex.

NICE has also approved the use of Sativex, a mouth spray that contains a mix of CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component of cannabis, to help treat MS sufferers who experience spasms and muscle stiffening.

The new guidelines from NICE, however, have recommended doctors not prescribe cannabis-based medicines, particularly ones containing THC, to chronic pain sufferers, citing a lack of evidence.

Genevieve Edwards, Director of External Affairs at the MS Society, said the approval of Sativex was a welcome announcement, but the omission of use for pain management was disappointing.

“These guidelines are an important first step, but don’t go far enough. No cannabis-based treatments have been recommended to treat pain, a common symptom of MS,” she said.  

“We’re calling on the next UK Government to accelerate research and remove barriers to this vital treatment, so cannabis for MS can finally become a reality.”

It became legal for specialist doctors (not GPs) in the UK to prescribe medicinal cannabis back in 2018 but without clear guidelines for prescriptions and funding, many were reluctant to do so. This led to families paying high costs for private prescriptions, and even seeking treatments outside of the UK and bringing it back illegally.

Two of the most high-profile cases that led to the legalization of medicinal cannabis involved Billy Caldwell and Alfie Dingley, two children who both have severe epilepsy who were denied access to cannabis oil, the only thing their families claimed alleviated their seizures. After traveling abroad to procure it, the Home Office confiscated it on their return. Due to both a public backlash and the mounting evidence that cannabis holds real potential in treating health issues, the UK reviewed and updated its policies towards medical marijuana.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com

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First Cannabis-Based Medicines Have Been Approved For Use By England’s NHS

Two cannabis-based medicines have been approved for use by England’s National Health Service (NHS) for the first time. The medicines will be available to treat children with severe forms of two conditions, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis (MS).

It’s the first time drugs containing cannabis have been greenlit for routine use by NHS England by the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), the nation’s drug watchdog.

After reviewing cannabis-based medicines for multiple conditions, NICE has approved the use of Epidyolex to treat two types of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut (a form of childhood-onset epilepsy) and Dravet (infant epilepsy caused by fever) syndromes, both of which are considered treatment-resistant. The drug comes in the form of an oral solution of cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychoactive component in cannabis, which clinical trials have shown can help reduce the frequency of seizures by almost 50 percent in some children.

It is estimated there are up to 9,000 sufferers of Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet in the UK. The drug costs between £5,000 and £10,000 ($6,400 and $12,800) a year per patient but, BBC News reports, GW Pharmaceuticals, the British-based company that developed the drug, has agreed to a discounted price for the NHS.

NICE said more research was needed on cannabis-based medicines before it could approve them for other forms of epilepsy. GW Pharmaceuticals is currently exploring whether Epidyolex could benefit people with West syndrome and Tuberous Sclerosis Complex.

NICE has also approved the use of Sativex, a mouth spray that contains a mix of CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component of cannabis, to help treat MS sufferers who experience spasms and muscle stiffening.

The new guidelines from NICE, however, have recommended doctors not prescribe cannabis-based medicines, particularly ones containing THC, to chronic pain sufferers, citing a lack of evidence.

Genevieve Edwards, Director of External Affairs at the MS Society, said the approval of Sativex was a welcome announcement, but the omission of use for pain management was disappointing.

“These guidelines are an important first step, but don’t go far enough. No cannabis-based treatments have been recommended to treat pain, a common symptom of MS,” she said.  

“We’re calling on the next UK Government to accelerate research and remove barriers to this vital treatment, so cannabis for MS can finally become a reality.”

It became legal for specialist doctors (not GPs) in the UK to prescribe medicinal cannabis back in 2018 but without clear guidelines for prescriptions and funding, many were reluctant to do so. This led to families paying high costs for private prescriptions, and even seeking treatments outside of the UK and bringing it back illegally.

Two of the most high-profile cases that led to the legalization of medicinal cannabis involved Billy Caldwell and Alfie Dingley, two children who both have severe epilepsy who were denied access to cannabis oil, the only thing their families claimed alleviated their seizures. After traveling abroad to procure it, the Home Office confiscated it on their return. Due to both a public backlash and the mounting evidence that cannabis holds real potential in treating health issues, the UK reviewed and updated its policies towards medical marijuana.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com

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Neil Young faces US citizenship delay over marijuana use

The Canadian songwriter is pursuing dual citizenship in order to vote my conscience on Donald J Trump in the 2020 election

Neil Young is facing a delay in his application for US citizenship after honestly answering a question about his marijuana use.

In a letter to fans posted on his website, the Canadian songwriter said that he passed the test for citizenship, but that he has been called to take another test due to my use of marijuana and how some people who smoke it have a problem.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services added a policy in April 2019, proposed by Jeff Sessions during his period as attorney general, which states: An applicant who is involved in certain marijuana related activities may lack GMC (Good Moral Character) if found to have violated federal law, even if such activity is not unlawful under applicable state of foreign laws.

Sessions has supported the repeal of the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment so that the justice department could prosecute suppliers of medical marijuana, despite President Trumps support for its legalisation.

Young wrote: I sincerely hope I have exhibited good moral character and will be able to vote my conscience on Donald J Trump and his fellow American candidates, (as yet un-named).

Young is widely known as a figurehead of the Los Angeles 1960s-70s Laurel Canyon scene. In October, he told the LA Times: Im still a Canadian; theres nothing that can take that away from me. But I live down here; I pay taxes down here; my beautiful family is all down here theyre all Americans, so I want to register my opinion.

Young has been critical of Trumps presidency, refusing him permission to use his 1989 hit Rockin in the Free World at campaign events, and criticising his stance on the November 2018 California wild fires, in which Young lost his home.

He recently told AP: I hope that people vote him out and I hope theres somebody reasonable to put back in there when they get rid of him.

Colorado, Youngs latest album with band Crazy Horse, was released in October.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

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Biden says he won’t support federal legalization of marijuana

2020 Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden said recently that his concern about marijuana being a gateway drug is one reason that he has not called for legalizing the drug.

Specifically, Biden said theres not nearly been enough evidence to show that marijuana is not a gateway drug when asked about it at a town hall event in Las Vegas, Nevada, over the weekend, according to Business Insider.

The former vice president continued, saying that he would want a lot more evidence before legalizing it on a federal level, but he also thought possession of marijuana should not be a crime.

The truth of the matter is, theres not nearly been enough evidence that has been acquired as to whether or not it is a gateway drug, Biden said, according to the news outlet. Its a debate, and I want a lot more before I legalize it nationally. I want to make sure we know a lot more about the science behind it.

In Bidens criminal justice reform plan on his campaign website, the former vice president calls for decriminalizing marijuana and expunging marijuana use convictions.

The plan also calls for legalizing medical marijuana and letting states decide whether they want to legalize it fully.

Bidens stance on marijuana legalization stands in contrast to many other 2020 rivals.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has said, if elected president, he would legalize marijuana within the first 100 days of his presidency. (He also dropped his plan for legalization at 4:20 p.m.).

Other candidates like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) have also called for legalizing marijuana.Mayor Pete Buttigieg supports legalization, expunging past convictions, and not jailing people for possessing drugs.

Read more: http://www.dailydot.com/

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‘I’mnot convinced we will have fair elections in America’: Stacey Abrams’ fight against voter suppression

Abrams lost the race for Georgia governor, and she believes voter suppression played a central role so shes leading a nationwide voting rights campaign

One year ago, at an election night party in downtown Atlanta, Stacey Abrams took the stage and delivered a speech that could well have been made 60 years ago, when this city was known as the cradle of the civil rights movement.

Democracy only works when we work for it. When we fight for it. When we demand it, she said, the microphone peaking under the power of her voice. In a civilized nation, the machinery of democracy should work for everyone, everywhere. Not just in certain places. And not just on a certain day.

Abrams was then the Democratic candidate for Georgia governor, attempting to become the countrys first black female state executive.

The race captivated America not only for its potential to make history. It also dredged up the countrys darkest past. African Americans in the deep south were once disenfranchised with literacy tests and other racist laws, and in recent years a surge in restrictive voting legislation, including voter identification laws and sweeping electoral roll purges, has ushered in an era described by some as a neo-Jim Crow.

Abrams did not win that night. Her opponent, the Trump-endorsed Republican Brian Kemp, eventually edged to victory by a thin, 55,000-vote margin. Abrams believes that voter suppression played a central role, which has led her to her next chapter: she has announced that for the next year, she will lead a nationwide voting rights campaign.

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Her goal is to export lessons she learned fighting voter suppression in Georgia, and to mobilize a base of progressives and marginalized communities to help Democrats win the White House in 2020. While many had urged her to consider a run for the presidency herself, she believes the new mission may be a more formidable undertaking.

I am not convinced at all that we will have free and fair elections unless we work to make it so, she said in August, during the first of several conversations with the Guardian. In America, we have the theory of free and fair elections, but unfortunately weve seen, particularly over the last 20 years, an erosion of the ability to access that right.

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‘Trump relies on voter suppression’: Stacey Abrams on her fight for voting rights video

The turning point came in a 2013 supreme court ruling that gutted the civil rights movements crowning achievement, the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The ruling paved the way for a raft of state laws that have made voting harder across the country.

The vote is the most powerful nonviolent instrument of transformation we have in our democracy, said the Georgia civil rights veteran and US congressman John Lewis last year. There are forces trying to make it harder and more difficult for people to participate. And we must drown out these forces.

This is why today, the Guardian is launching The Fight to Vote, a series that will investigate why it is so hard for growing numbers of Americans to cast a ballot. In the run-up to the 2020 election, it will scrutinize compromised electoral systems, give a platform to voices silenced at the polls, and reveal how voter suppression is already shaping the 2020 election.

We are in a different era of voter suppression, Abrams says. But unfortunately it is a continued lineage of voter suppression that began with the inception of our country.

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Stacey Abrams meets Georgia voters in Metter, Monday November 5, 2018. Photograph: Melina Mara/The Washington Post/Getty Images

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We first meet on a bright and humid summers afternoon in an upmarket Atlanta suburb a few blocks from the headquarters of her new national voting rights campaign, Fair Fight 2020.

The campaign is now in its infancy, but aims to create a vast voter protection drive across the country, supporting teams in 20 battleground states to aid with registration and boost turnout among minority groups next year.

In September she appeared on stage at a concert with the pop artist Lizzo in New York, delivering a rousing speech urging young attendees to become part of the campaign. This was part of a broader goal of engaging younger communities of color by pushing the voting rights struggle into popular culture.

Every one of you is responsible for finding a rule that is wrong, she told the crowd. I want you to break that rule and write a new one.

Abrams sees this work, and her gubernatorial election last year, as the continuation of a struggle that has spanned generations. We believe in the right to vote, but, from the very beginning, communities have been distanced from it, she says.

Communities like her own. Born in the small, coastal city of Gulfport, at the southern tip of Mississippi, Abrams and her five siblings were taught about the critical importance of voting from a young age. Her parents, both Methodist ministers, were involved in the civil rights movement as teenagers her father was arrested for assisting voter registration in black communities while still in high school.

My parents took us with them when they voted, she says. They talked about why politics mattered. They made certain we watched the news and asked questions, because they wanted us to understand that our engagement, our ability to shape our communities, was directly tied to our votes, and they were very clear that they expected us to be voters.

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Stacey Abrams in Atlanta on 27 August 2019. Photograph: Peyton Fulford/The Guardian

The voting rights struggle has shifted significantly since her parents days. While voter suppression laws in various states no longer explicitly target particular groups, the method is more insidious, using carefully constructed policy to make it harder to register, to cast a vote and to have a ballot counted. It has fundamentally changed the electoral landscape in the United States.

Abrams home state of Georgia is an incubator for these new suppression tactics, and Kemp, her opponent last year, is a primary instigator. Beginning in 2010, he served as Georgias secretary of state, overseeing voting and elections, and controversially declined to step down from the post while he ran for governor, meaning he effectively oversaw his own election.

Since the landmark supreme court decision, which allowed states to impose new voting laws without federal approval, Georgia has enacted a swath of voter suppression laws, from rapidly purging the voter rolls of those deemed inactive, to the closure of hundreds of polling places, often in poorer black neighbourhoods. It introduced a new law terminating voter registration four weeks before the 2018 election day, preventing an estimated 87,000 people from voting.

The state also introduced a controversial exact match law requiring that details on new voter applications match precisely with government-issued documents meaning an errant hyphen or a changed married name can block the registration process. This system proved contentious last year after 53,000 applications mostly from African Americans were revealed to have stalled less than a month before election day.

We saw an implementation of almost every possible iteration of voter suppression, Abrams says. Yes, we became an incubator, but we also became a singularity where almost every one of those pieces [of suppression] was implemented by the person who would go on to become governor of the state.

Abrams accepts she cannot prove empirically that these policies altered the election outcome. But she also refuses to rule it out, and she has not formally conceded the election, a move Kemps campaign branded a disgrace to democracy. It is a slur she shrugs off as hypocritical posturing. Kemp, privately educated and wealthy, is to her a representative of the sort of conservative, white patriarchal power she has spent much of her career fighting against.

Attendees
Attendees look at a laptop computer during an election night watch party for Stacey Abrams in Atlanta, Georgia on Tuesday, November 6th 2018. Photograph: Kevin D. Liles/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Brian Kemp is emblematic of what is happening across this country, which is that a community that has enjoyed a certain hegemony finds their control of power weakening, she says.

Critics have leveled the same charge at Donald Trump, who himself has spent much of his presidency casting false and inflammatory allegations of widespread illegal voting, the central justification for many voter suppression laws across the country. The president even appeared with Kemp during the 2018 campaign and reiterated a number of the conservative attacks on Abrams: that she had encouraged undocumented migrants to vote, would support widespread firearms confiscation, and was at the helm of a radical agenda across other areas of public life.

Nonetheless Abrams success at mobilizing a progressive base means that many observers now see Georgia, a Democratic stronghold until the late 90s, as a swing state once again.

She galvanized the most Democratic voters weve ever seen in Georgia, says Tharon Johnson, a veteran Democratic strategist in the state. She was able to get a lot of sporadic voters who historically dont come out in gubernatorial races, to turn out. She went to low-propensity voters folks that have moved or maybe fell off the voting rolls. I think the operation and apparatus she built then will be used to help elect a Democrat [next year].

She always had plans and knows what she wants to do

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I became more and more afraid, reluctant to do the work of campaigning because I didnt want to pick up the phone and hear another person I admired tell me my skin color and gender would be my undoing. Photograph: Peyton Fulford/The Guardian

Abrams began to find her own political voice in the early 1990s, while studying at the historically black Spelman College in Atlanta.

She led organizing efforts when an unarmed black man, Rodney King, was assaulted by Los Angeles police in 1991. She appeared on TV news, dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, alongside the citys first black mayor, Maynard Jackson, where the two sparred over Atlantas policing tactics. Jackson later gave Abrams her maiden job in politics as a research assistant for the city.

It was also at Spelman that Abrams begin to organize her life into a series of formal goals. Spurred by a romantic breakup at the time, she started entering her ambitions into a spreadsheet. By 24, she aimed to write a bestselling spy novel. By 30, she would become a millionaire. And at 35, the mayor of Atlanta. Her goals shifted over time she published eight romance novels rather than spy novels, and she was elected to the Georgia house of representatives in 2007.

Stacey has always been very, very direct, says her youngest sister, Jeanine Abrams McLean. She always had plans and knows what she wants to do and develops plans to make sure it gets done.

As leader of the Democratic minority, Abrams earned bipartisan respect for her practical approach to governance..

She may be the most brilliant woman or person Ive ever met, says Allen Peake, a former Georgia house Republican who supported Kemp in 2018. She is incredibly intelligent, incredibly quick on her feet, incredibly well prepared for every political battle she enters.

Peake mentions the time Abrams rallied Democrats to support a medical marijuana bill he worked on, as well as numerous GOP budgets passed with her support. She was very pragmatic, he says. Even so, he remains critical of her 2018 platform, which he characterizes as radical.

Kemps tenure as governor, meanwhile, has proved disastrous for progressive causes in the state, among the most rapidly diversifying in the country. He signed one of the most restrictive abortion laws in America and has refused to expand healthcare provisions, despite polling indicating a majority of Georgians disapproved of both decisions.

Abrams describes this as a tyranny of the minority suppressing the vote, she argues, has led to the suppression of the views of the majority.

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A mural featuring the face of Stacey Abrams in Atlanta, Georgia. Photograph: Elijah Nouvelage/The Washington Post via Getty Images

It is not possible to win by only talking to those weve talked to before

There is an arresting passage in Abrams autobiography, Lead from the Outside, describing the doubts she battled as she announced her gubernatorial candidacy. Some of her closest friends and mentors declined to back her bid. Their message was blunt: Georgia was not ready to elect a black woman to high office. Abrams almost dropped out of the primary after one close mentor, who she does not name, declined to support her.

I became more and more afraid, reluctant to do the work of campaigning because I didnt want to pick up the phone and hear another person I admired tell me my skin color and gender would be my undoing, she writes in the book, which was published before last years election.

Even though she is pouring her energy into fighting voting suppression, and has been touted as a potential running mate for Joe Biden, those feelings are still devastating.

It remains a reason that I have people I thought were friends that I acknowledge now werent true friendships. A number of them came back after I won the primary, but its a conversation that helped me understand that this is not simply a trope held by those who oppose me as a Democrat. It was a trope held by those who just didnt believe in the capacity of communities of color to hold power.

The Democrats are hoping to win back the mostly white voters who swung to Trump in 2016, yet Abrams argues that embracing ostracized communities of color is essential.

Identity politics is good politics for Democrats, she says. It is not possible to win and to build the coalitions we need to build by only talking to those weve talked to before.

Abrams laughs a little awkwardly when asked if she has been approached by any of the candidates. No one has rung my phone yet. But she remains open. I think it would be fantastic to be invited to be someones running mate, but you cant plan your life around someone elses wishes.

Meanwhile, Abrams still maintains those spreadsheets she started writing back at university. She last updated one in February of this year. She struck off Governor of Georgia by 2018 from the list, and updated it to include her forthcoming work on voting rights.

But she didnt touch one goal that has been on there for years : president of the United States by 2028. Its still on there, but for later, she says.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

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