Presidential candidates who believe they are going to win the nomination of their respective parties by threatening to dismantle the cannabis industry in legal states are dead in the water.
In an overwhelming response, Republican voters in the early primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire indicated this week a stern opposition to federal interference in state marijuana laws. A recent Public Policy Poll, which was commissioned by the Marijuana Majority, finds that 71 percent of the GOP in Iowa and 73 percent in New Hampshire want Uncle Sam to keep his grubby old paws out of state marijuana business — pulling in the leashes on the dogs of the drug war, specifically the DEA.
When it comes to handicapping the presidential race, Iowa and New Hampshire have been crucial in determining the outcome of an election for the past several decades. The Iowa caucus will launch the election season in early February, followed by the primaries in New Hampshire soon after.
The latest poll is important to the issue of marijuana reform because candidates are just months away from going face-to-face with party members to determine whether they are “representative” of their pledged political affiliation. Republican candidates like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Florida Senator Marco Rubio, both of which have made shutting down the legal cannabis trade a key platform in their campaigns, may be in for a rude awakening.
“We put these polls into the field because we want presidential candidates to understand that the voters in these key states — who they need support from to win — overwhelmingly want the next occupant of the Oval Office to scale back federal marijuana prohibition,” Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, said in a statement.
“Candidates who say they would send in the DEA to shut down legal, taxpaying marijuana businesses are effectively announcing that they’re out of the mainstream and out of touch with the voters they need support from in order to get elected,” he added. “That type of rhetoric is just not going to score any points in 2016.”
The issue of the federal government interfering in state marijuana laws has been a hot topic ever since Congress passed an amendment prohibiting the use of federal funds to prosecute law-biding members of the medical marijuana community. Despite the law, the Justice Department has continued to allow drug agents to take down these operations with a vengeance, arguing that the amendment, which was signed by President Obama, only prevents DEA from interfering with states that have legalized medical marijuana. The industry itself is fair game.
Most of the Republican presidential candidates, including Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, and Rick Perry, have said that while they do not support the legalization of marijuana, they believe states should be allowed to pass their own pot laws.
It was predicted early this year that cannabis legalization would be a deciding factor on which candidates would become the focal point of the election. Millennial voters now have a larger share of the electorate, while the senior vote has dropped off significantly. Therefore, it is conceivable that a more progressive presidential platform, which certainly includes allowing marijuana to crawl out of the darkness of prohibition, is more likely to be appreciated by the majority of the voting public.
In fact, most of the polls published over the past year have suggested that around 60 percent of the population supports the concept of states being allowed to legalize the leaf without hindrance from the federal government.
Strangely, while Republicans seems to be at a turning point when it comes to marijuana reform, very few have tendered their support this year for any of the cannabis legislation currently rotting away on Capitol Hill. Perhaps this is because it is safer politically to hide behind the issue of state’s rights than it is for them to take a solid stance on federal pot reform.
After all, earlier this month the National Conference of State Legislators approved a resolution aimed at keeping the federal government out of state marijuana business. Yet, the CARERS Act, which is designed to free medical marijuana states from the shackles of federal authority, has been unsuccessful at collecting enough Republican support to even get a hearing.