It appears that 2018 will be the year America finally turns green — no, not the party (sorry Ralph Nader) — with voters setting their sights on cannabis legalization.
However, Justin Strekal, the political director with the consumer lobby group NORML, told The Bluntness that in this election, a majority of voters across the country – including Democrats, Independents and Republicans – all support the legalization of marijuana.
And they’re willing to stake their ballots on it.
In 2017, a Gallup poll found that for the first time in five decades, “a majority of Republicans express support for legalizing marijuana; the current 51 percent is up nine percentage points from last year.” The poll goes on to add that Americans overall continue to increase their support for marijuana, with a total of “64 percent now saying its use should be made legal.”
This marks a major diversion from the negative perceptions of marijuana that had been solidified since Congress passed the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970. The Act was passed in conjunction with former President Ronald Reagan’s war on drugs almost 50 years ago, and has dictated the politics and policing of cannabis-related activity ever since.
But after five decades of prohibition, why now?
“[Elected officials] are not going to do anything unless they feel their jobs are threatened,” Strekal added. “That’s what’s hastening the change. Increasingly, voters are positioning themselves to fire elected officials for not being good on marijuana policy,”
The fear of losing elections has current officials and candidates across all parties considering their stances on marijuana during this election. Hopefuls like Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D–Texas), Mayor Andrew Gillum (D–Fla.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.) have made it a point to support legalization on both state federal levels throughout their campaigns.
And last year saw Virginia Republican Rep. Tom Garrett introduce a bill to remove marijuana from the federal controlled substances list, called Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017.
“It is time for lawmakers of both parties to en masse acknowledge the data-driven and political realities of legalization," Strekal said in an Oct. 22 press release. “An outright majority of every demographic by age, political party, and region of the country support the legalization of marijuana.”
So far, nine states (Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia) have legalized recreational marijuana. And CNBC reports that voters will cast opinions on 63 marijuana-related ballot measures during the midterms on Nov. 6.
“As these candidates and elected officials are seeing this trajectory of public support continuing to grow in the wake of more states implementing regulating markets… it’s a testament to how right we are as reformers for ending the absurd policy of criminalization,” Strekal added.