There’s still uncertainty hanging over Tuesday’s returns, but there’s one sure takeaway from the 2020 election: American voters like marijuana more than they like politicians. That’s according to Cannabis Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.).
Blumenauer says the stars are aligning for big changes in Washington after five states handily passed drug-reform initiatives Tuesday, including red-leaning states South Dakota and Mississippi..
“It was a terrific evening for our efforts to eliminate the failed prohibition of cannabis,” Blumenauer told reporters. “It’s clear that cannabis is much more popular than any politician, and the public are demanding changes in our outmoded cannabis laws. Success in the states of Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, South Dakota, and Mississippi makes cannabis now legal for adult-use in 15 states and medical use in 36.”
Blumenauer, one of Congress’ earliest champions of drug reform, praised the discrimination voters showed Tuesday.
“They demonstrated strong bipartisan support for reform,” he says. “Even in states where Republicans easily swept elections, like Mississippi and South Dakota, cannabis measures passed with strong support. This sets the table for us moving forward.”
In Mississippi voters were thrown a head fake by the legislature, which added a watered-down medical marijuana measure alongside the more robust one that voters overwhelmingly supported, which Blumenauer called a “cynical effort to gum up the works.” But voters were unfazed.
“They saw through it and made the right choices,” Blumnauer says. “South Dakota passed medical and adult use. I find this to be an exciting prelude to the next Congress.”
But marijuana measures have remained stalled in Congress, and it seems like the Senate will remain in GOP hands. Still, Blumenauer thinks the expansion of legalization in conservative areas means redstate politicians will feel more pressure from the voters themselves.
“Politicians, notwithstanding some evidence, tend to respond to their constituents,” he says. “It’s been difficult to put these programs before members of Congress. That’s not going to be the case now. Look what happened when we finally had an opportunity for a clean vote on our SAFE Banking Act: 321 bipartisan votes.”
Blumenauer also says that, with higher percentages of Americans on either side of the aisle supporting drug reform, Congress will begin to pay more attention. The election results put serious pressure on Congress to get its act together, because now about 1 in 3 Americans will have access to legal, recreational marijuana, while it’s legal medicinally in all but a few states.
“Virtually everyone has access to cannabis today,” Blumenauer says. “I suspect that we’re going to have a much easier task in getting support. I think we’re going to have a much easier task getting these before our fellow members.”