Americans now favor marijuana legalization by a healthy margin, as proven in a new Gallup Poll.
This realization is now influencing the 2016 Presidential election. Candidates supporting continued criminal prohibition of cannabis now face strong headwind of American public opinion. The Gallup pollsters concluded:
Americans’ support for legalizing marijuana is the highest Gallup has measured to date, at 58%. Given the patterns of support by age, that percentage should continue to grow in the future. Younger generations of Americans have been increasingly likely to favor legal use of marijuana as they entered adulthood compared with older generations of Americans when they were the same age decades ago. Now, more than seven in 10 of today’s young adults support legalization. But Americans today — particularly those between 35 and 64 — are more supportive of legal marijuana than members of their same birth cohort were in the past.
About the only group still opposed to legalizing marijuana consists of older, white Americans.
The poll found that, “now senior citizens are alone among age groups in opposing pot legalization.” But even this group has mellowed considerably on cannabis legalization, with 35% now supporting. This is up from a meager 4% in 1969! This aged anti-legalization segment is, of course, shrinking and acceptance of cannabis by older Americans can be expected to grow as the profound medical and health benefits to seniors become better known.
This shift in American attitude should influence the 2016 election.
Regarding the impact the poll should have, NORML’s Paul Armentano is spot on:
“Supporting the status quo — the notion that marijuana and those adults who consume it responsibly ought to be criminalized — is now a fringe position in America. These results ought to embolden campaigning politicians, as well as elected officials, to take a more pronounced stance in favor of legalizing and regulating cannabis in a manner that is consistent with the desires of the majority of their constituents.”
For the first time in a presidential race, “campaigning politicians” have taken notice, and even been questioned on marijuana policy during the debates. But support for marijuana legalization seems to lag far behind among the candidates as opposed to the American public. Of course, these oldest Americans least likely to support legalization is the group most consistent to vote. As such, they carry inordinate political power, and dominate early contests such as the Iowa caucus.
Pursuing the Democratic Party nomination,
Senator Bernie Sanders favors legalization. This view endears him especially to younger potential voters, who agree better than two to one.
Hillary Clinton now expresses support for medical cannabis and for legalization experiments in states, but does not support ending federal prohibition.
The other Democratic Party candidates express similar views, both quite reasonable.
In the race for Republican Party nomination, things are different.
The supposed party of small government and states’ rights seems to spawn candidates who support neither. Their prohibitionist views depart radically from the American mainstream revealed in the new Gallup poll.
Chris Christie promises to bring the federal hammer down on legal states and cannabis users if he becomes president. Perhaps his dismal popularity ratings reflect the American public’s disgust with continued harsh prohibition.
John Kasich, who appears reasonable and has some good policy positions, unfortunately espouses idiotically regressive views on marijuana. He calls cannabis a scourge comparable to heroin. Nonetheless, he supports states rights sufficiently to allow states to legalize without federal intervention.
Marco Rubio, currently an alarmingly strong candidate, supports the anti-marijuana views of his mega-donor (and puppeteer) gambling billionaire Sheldon Adelson. Like Chris Christie, he would “enforce federal law” and unleash the dogs of drug war on legalized states.
Rick Santorum, oh, who cares?
Donald Trump looks ever more likely as the Republican candidate. He has made several inconsistent statements (surprise) about medical use and state legalization. Hopefully he will soon clarify his views.
Rand Paul, of all the Republicans, is the only candidate who seemingly supports personal rights and as well as states’ rights. His actions in congress have been exemplary, leading the assault on cannabis prohibition. The Marijuana Policy Project declared him the best candidate among the Republicans. Unfortunately, his poll numbers still lag, at least among the older Republicans. But his views are much more in line with the 72% of young adults who may give him the presidency if he can secure the nomination.
Hopefully the 2016 elections will elect a new President, along with politicians for office big and small, who reflect the views of the majority of Americans who support legalizing marijuana.