Midterms – Cannabis Coming Together
Midterms – Cannabis Coming Together – As polls show record support for marijuana legalization, advocates say the midterm elections could mark the point of no return for a movement that has been gathering steam for years.
“The train has left the station,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., a leading marijuana reform advocate in Congress. “I see all the pieces coming together… It’s the same arc we saw two generations ago with the prohibitions of alcohol.”
Voters in four states will weigh in on ballot initiatives to legalize weed for recreational or medical use next month, while voters everywhere will consider giving more power to Democrats, who have increasingly campaigned on marijuana legalization and are likely to advance legislation on the issue if they win back power in Congress and state capitals.
It’s been just six years since Colorado and Washington became the first states in the country to legalize marijuana, but in that short time span, seven other states and the District of Columbia have followed. Thirty states have legalized medical cannabis. The entire country of Canada legalized the drug last week.
Politically, the issue has gone from a risible sideshow to a mainstream plank with implications for racial justice and billions of dollars in tax revenue. “Politicians embraced it because it’s actually good politics,” said Blumenauer. “They can read the polls.”
Two out of three Americans (66 percent) now support the legalization of marijuana, according to a new Gallup survey, including a majority of Republicans and, for the first time, a majority of voters over the age of 55. Not surprisingly, support is strongest among Democrats (75 percent) and young adults between the ages of 18 and 34 (78 percent).
But opponents say advocates are ignoring the backlash that rapid legalization has created, including from some surprising corners, like the Detroit chapter of the NAACP, which is set to announce Tuesday its opposition to a ballot measure that would legalize marijuana in Michigan, the most significant of this year’s referendums.
Michigan already has a robust medical marijuana industry, but voters could decide to fully legalize the drug for recreational use on Nov. 6. A recent survey commissioned by The Detroit Free Press found 55 percent of voters supported the measure, compared to 41 percent who opposed it.
Meanwhile, North Dakota voters will also have a chance to legalize recreational marijuana in one of the most conservative states in the country, two years after 64 percent of voters approved its medical use during the 2016 election. Advocates are less hopeful about their prospects this year, though a pro-legalization group released a poll this weekend claiming a narrow 51 percent of likely voters approve of the measure.
Utah, a deep red state with some of the strictest alcohol rules in the country, is considering a medical marijuana initiative, which polls suggest is favored to succeed, even though most of the state’s political and religious leaders oppose it.
At the same time, Missouri voters will consider three separate and competing for medical marijuana ballot initiatives. The situation has frustrated advocates and could confuse voters, especially because it’s unclear what will happen if they approve more than one next month.