One of the reasons cannabis legalization for adults has advanced so quickly in the last decade is that it’s no longer a partisan issue. Once, it was all about Democrats. Today, about 2/3 of Americans, according to any poll you happen to wander across, are in favor of legalization, and since there aren’t that many registered Dems, it’s pretty obvious Republicans are moving in that direction as well.
Why not? Republicans use cannabis, too, and many on that side favor taxing cannabis like alcohol over trying to stop people from using it. In the Midwest, a red-state stronghold, both Illinois and Michigan now have recreational sales to adults. In Oklahoma, which is Republican ruled, 57 percent of all voters approved medical marijuana in June 2019. Since then, more than 200,000 residents have applied for medical cards and spent more than $60 million in April for their medicine. Guaranteed those aren’t all Democrats.
And this week the Pennsylvania Cannabis Coalition (PCC), the trade association for the state’s licensed cannabis industry, is beckoning to Republican legislators in Pennsylvania to back legal cannabis as a way to attract voters.
The committee’s conclusion came after a Harper Polling panel survey of 644 likely voters found 62 percent support and only 29 percent opposition for legalization among Democrats and Republicans, with a third of all voters strongly favoring legalization. These numbers came despite that, when asked, 44 percent of respondents called themselves “somewhat” or “very” conservative.
“While many have reported on Democratic support of legalization, a key finding of the poll was the electoral support of adult-use among Republicans. The numbers are clear: Supporting adult-use is a flat-out good vote,” PCC said in a press release announcing the results. “Fewer than 9% of Republicans would vote against a Republican legislator because of their support for adult-use, while nearly 1/3 of Democrats would be more likely to vote for a Republican legislator who supports adult-use.”
Another question asked if voters would prefer to raise other taxes or tax cannabis as coffers have dried up during the COVID-19 crisis. The state faces a $5 billion deficit, and another study says that taxing cannabis, though it won’t solve the state’s financial crunch, could bring in more than $500 million a year. And almost 60 percent of voters prefer cannabis to be sold in “licensed dispensaries run by private entrepreneurs” over “state-controlled liquor stores.”
The state legislature has for the most part opposed any attempts to legalize cannabis, but state representative Jake Wheatley introduced a legalization bill in March and is currently in the House Health Committee.
But the big takeaway here is that majorities of all affiliations feel that ending the Drug War is an idea whose time has come, he wrote. “Allowing adult-use will create jobs, generate tax revenue, displace an illicit market and increase consumer protections … Far from being an electoral drag, supporting adult use cannabis has positive effects for a Republican legislator.”
I couldn’t put it any better than that.