Marijuana legalization is becoming the great unifier in an otherwise polarized political landscape, a rare issue with bipartisan and widespread public support.
Libertarians have long supported legalization, and state-level reform along with a greater awareness of racial disparities in marijuana possession arrests has solidified support among Democrats across the nation. Meanwhile, Republicans are becoming more and more sick of prohibition.
Inauguration Day developments, though, have called attention to support for legalization among many supporters of Donald Trump.
As reported by High Times and other media, DCMJ, which launched the successful effort in Washington, D.C. to legalize personal marijuana use, had plans to give away five thousand joints during an inauguration day protest. The January 20 event was well-organized, and successful, and received considerable press attention.
The event lasted for about five hours, and expressed support for legalization at the federal level, as well as opposition to the nomination of Jeff Session for attorney general. According to Adam Eidinger, co-founder of DCMJ, the event received an “extremely positive reaction from everyone, including the police on site.” Video of the event can be seen here.
Widely overlooked in most news coverage, though, was that “everyone” in this case included many demonstrators who were in town for pro-Trump events. According to Eidinger “about one-third of our takers and givers of free cannabis identified as Trump Supporters.” One of the more noticeable groups of Trump supporters consisted of several dozen members of Bikers for Trump, who were in town for their own rally.
A review of protest activity that afternoon on Julie Mason’s The Press Pool on Sirius radio called attention to the popularity of the DCMJ event and the commingling of legalization advocates and Trump supporters, particularly the Bikers for Trump members.
Weed, it was observed, was the great unifier, a popular concept for many of the show’s listeners. The discussion was a bit tongue-in-cheek, as is frequently the case when it comes to marijuana and its popularity, but that actually gives even more credence to the analysis. In other words, this is so obvious it’s not really news.
The news is filled with reactionary attempts to fight, stall or otherwise opposes marijuana legalization, both in terms of legislative attempts to meddle with the decisions of voters and with respect to preventing other initiatives from taking place. But on the other hand, for example, legalization is now being pushed in Maryland’s legislature.
It’s the demographics of support for marijuana legalization that beginning to sink in for politicians.
Take a look at the October 2016 Gallup poll on legalization. Among national adults, support for marijuana legalization has grown from 35 percent in 2003/2005 to 60 percent in 2016. When itemized by political party, support has grown among independents from 46 percent to 70 percent and among Democrats from 38 percent to 67 percent. Among Republicans, legalization support has doubled, from 20 percent to 42 percent.
This is a long-term trend. Nationally, support for marijuana legalization was at 12 percent in 1969, 25 percent in 1996, 36 percent in 2005, and reflected a majority of Americans only as recently as 2013, when 58 percent supported legalization. Gallup observed that “it is unclear whether support has stabilized or it continuing to inch higher.”
America is reaching a consensus on two related propositions, that (a) prohibition is a failed, costly and unjust policy and (b) that marijuana should be legalized.
It’s becoming obvious that this is a widely held position, embraced across the political spectrum. Think about this for a moment—DCMJ gave away thousands of marijuana cigarettes in the nation’s capital, and the police just watched and smiled because the lawful protest was peaceful and well-behaved.
More important—symbolically or otherwise—at a time when the supporters and opponents of the nation’s new president are sharply, emotionally and bitterly divided, marijuana brought some of them together in fellowship and solidarity.
Marijuana really is, in today’s America, the great unifier.