1/14/20 BY DAN ULLOA

Hector Oseguera is running for Congress in New Jersey’s 8th Congressional District in the Democratic primary in June against the incumbent Congressman Albio Sires. He has made cannabis 420 reform a central plank of his campaign’s platform.

On New Year’s Day, he tweeted regarding the need to end the War on Drugs and supporting Illinois’ newly opened cannabis market. It garnered some national attention within the cannabis press.

“I’m completely in support of cannabis reform. The War on Drugs has led to more drug use, more convictions, led to all of the things it was created to supposedly fight against,” he said. “It has led to a militarized police force, led to corruption. The War on Drugs is a complete failure.”

Oseguera added that “those serving time should be released immediately, those suffering because of prior convictions should have their records expunged and anyone snared in the War on Drugs should gain their right to vote back. To me, that’s just an issue of justice.”

“If you want to smoke cigarettes, have a drink we’re not gonna throw u in jail. But if you want to smoke a joint, you’re a criminal,” Oseguera argued. “The most dangerous thing about cannabis is being caught with it.”

If elected to Congress, Oseguera pledged to introduce a bill that would deschedule cannabis and take it off the Controlled Substance Act. He noted it’s currently treated the same as heroin. 

“If you know anything about heroin, it’s not in the same universe,” he added.

“The most dangerous thing about cannabis is being caught with it.”

“Cannabis is one of the major issues that will carry me to victory because for so long the political system has benefited from giving police military equipment. I think that it’s high time to cut this trough that has fueled a war on our people,” Oseguera said. “Families have been ruined by the War on Drugs and it’s a system I sincerely look forward to destroying.”

420 Reform and Banking

In addition to the criminal justice component, Oseguera is concerned about improving the business aspect as well.

“Banks are still unwilling to take on cannabis-related businesses. So that’s something I want to change immediately” he said. When asked, Oseguera said he was in favor of home cultivation in terms of 420 reform. 

“If you want to grow your own at home, if it’s legal there should be no reason that you shouldn’t be able to,” he replied.

Regarding  New Jersey’s ballot measure in November he said, “I endorse all steps to bring legalization to cannabis. It’s a step in the right direction,” he said, adding that he is frustrated by the delay.

Oseguera was born and raised in New Jersey and has lived here his whole life with the exception of college, having grown in West New York and Union City. Professionally Oseguera is an Anti-Money laundering specialist. While always interested in politics, until recently, he had never thought of running. 

“I thought you needed a certain pedigree or needed to be smiled upon by the powers that be. But over the last couple years there’s been so many incidents…  that this country is looking for change,” Oseguera said.

The Fighting NJ Eighth

Sires took the Seat when then-Congressman Bob Menendez was appointed to the Senate by then-Governor Jon Corzine to take his seat after he won the Governorship. Sires was previously an Assemblyman from Hudson County and Speaker of the New Jersey Assembly.

A representative from Sires’ office could not be reached.

Sires is a co-sponsor of the SAFE Banking Act which passed last September and makes it easier for plant-touching businesses to access banking services. The SAFE Banking Act has wide bipartisan support across the country. 

Having been in Congress since 2006, Sires has been a fairly progressive Democrat, given the nature of his district. He has not caused progressive outrage like Josh Gottheiemr and Jeff Van Drew have in their much shorter times in Congress. But then he also not received the progressive accolades Bonnie Watson Coleman has who thus far has not received a challenge from a Berniecrat, unlike others.

Oseguera noted no one challenged Sires in 2018 and it looked like something similar would happen this year. 

“So I came to decide maybe somebody should. We deserve better,” Oseguera said. According to Oseguera, at the height of the immigrant detention crisis when atrocities were occurring, a group of activists went to Albio Sires’ office advocating he vote in favor of cutting the funding of the US. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which had been carrying out raids. Because the district is majority Hispanic, they thought would be easy. But unfortunately, Sires said absolutely not, ICE does great work. 

In addition, according to Oseguera, Eliot Abrams who worked with right-wing death squads in Central America in the ’80s is now U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela and has been advocating for the violent overthrow of its president. On the day Abrams was called to testify before Congress, Sires took a picture with him.

Sires, like Senator Bob Menendez, is a Cuban American who often takes strident positions regarding communism like being in favor of overthrowing the Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

And while some might view his race for Congress as quixotic, he does not.

“I absolutely think I’m going to win the primary in June. We are at a turning point in our country’s history… If we bring our message to the people in the district, we can win. There’s a great appetite for change,” Oseguera said.

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