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Can Marijuana Save The Republican Party?

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republican marijuanaDemocrats have not capitalized on the marijuana opportunity; can Republicans get out of their own way and embrace the new societal norm?

FLINT, MICHIGAN- A 5% Congressional approval rating. A fractured party searching for a new direction. A government shutdown that has left a durable stain on the party name.

If the Republican Party ever needed a boost in reputation and membership, now is the time. Instead of inventing a new calamity to draw the party’s loose ends together, conservatives should adopt a more friendly attitude toward a topic that already has widespread acceptance nationwide and could prove financially advantageous- the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana.

Second only to election results, polling data is king among methods of taking the public’s political temperature. National, state and local polling data indicates time and time again the people’s societal acceptance of a new, more relaxed set of marijuana laws. Economic data points to vast financial benefit from the conversion of a successful and pervasive black market trade into a taxable source of revenue and jobs.

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marijuana polling data summary chart

 

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Although both parties could benefit from a greater association with, and support of, marijuana law reform, the Republican party is most in need of a new direction- and a new base of supporters. Support is high in some traditionally Red states- Texas, Oklahoma, Florida- and in battleground states, like Michigan.

How conservatives embrace the issue of marijuana’s societal acceptance is crucial. Lip service performed while passing laws that are restrictive to small business or that place excessive restrictions on cannabis use, cultivation or consumption are what marijuana law supporters expect Republicans to do. Conservatives can exceed this expectation by acting on input from state-based cannabis organizations.

In Michigan, Republican House Representative Michael Callton (of ‘pot for potholes’ fame) has sponsored a Provisioning Centers Act that enjoys moderate support from the cannabis community while Senate Republican powerhouses Jones, Richardville and Kahn are reviving last year’s much-maligned Pharmaceutical Grade Medical Cannabis bill, widely viewed by the media and marijuana community as a pandering attempt to satisfy Canadian marijuana powerhouse Prarie Plant Systems in their effort to corner Michigan’s retail medical marijuana market.

Campaigns that are not supported by grass-roots, rank-and-file members of the marijuana majority are not likely to succeed- or bring the support and acceptance Republicans need. Efforts in California, where opposition between forces halted the passage of a legalization drive, and in Oregon, where the 2012 campaign to legalize marijuana use (as neighbors Washington and Colorado did) failed, both fell short due in part to a lack of support by the patient base. Washington’s successful 502 initiative was significantly hampered because of the inclusion of an intoxicated driving standard that was not supported by marijuana consumers. Taking a pro-marijuana stand that favors law enforcement instead of providing patient protections will not deliver political benefit to either party.

And there is political benefit to be had. In the chart included with this article, the number of Americans that actively use marijuana is 7% and 48% admit to have tried the herb at some point in their life. If 82% of New Yorkers and 79% of New Hampshire residents support medical marijuana laws, less than one-tenth of those medicinal cannabis advocates are current users and nearly half have never tried pot. New York, New Hampshire, Hawaii, California, Minnesota- all are states with strong voter support of medical or recreational cannabis and all feature Democratic governors.

First, the Republicans need to get out of their own way.

Conservative representatives like Dr. Kevin Sabet, whose anti-legalization, pro-drug treatment message is spread across states and broadcast networks on a weekly basis, create an image of Republicans that satisfies neither the conservative party core nor the educated voters they seek to convert. “At a base level, our politics should seek to promote a more sober, safe and virtuous society, and nothing about making pot use more widespread than it already is serves the common interest,” wrote Washington Post columnist and Republican strategist Ed Rogers.

“Marijuana’s ascent as a national issue will force Republicans to choose between breaking with the conservative base or undermining their efforts to rejuvenate support from young voters, who so far have only shown interest in libertarian-leaning Republicans like Ron Paul,” wrote Nate Cohn in The New Republic. “If Republicans don’t seize the middle ground on marijuana legalization, Democrats will eventually use the issue to their advantage.”

The Democrats have not picked up the standard of cannabis law reform with any zeal- or, in some states, at all. That failure to act could cost them support in those tight 2014 races, where the conservative swing seen in 2010-s election could potentially be corrected.

In Michigan, Democratic House Representative Jeff Irwin has introduced a bill decriminalizing marijuana; that bill’s Senate mate was introduced this week by Democratic Senator Coleman Young Jr. Those decrim bills enjoy more support from grassroots marijuana law reform activists than either of the Republican-sponsored dispensary bills. Neither of these two legislators will have difficulty being re-elected.

With a fragmented Republican party and a presidential election still three years away, state Democratic parties could pounce on this opportunity to move many Undecided voters into the blue column. Cannabis users are often single-issue voters who are motivated to visit the polls when issues of significance are put before them, but once they have pulled the curtain and are looking at the ballot they remember who supports their issue and who does not. Democrats who face tight races need only to help marijuana law reform advocates get their issue on the same ballot to ensure a boost in voter turnout.

POLLING DATA- BY THE NUMBERS

4% of Americans think we are winning the war on drugs. 5

6% of Americans think people caught smoking or in possession of marijuana should go to jail. 16

7% of Americans regularly use marijuana. 2

12% of Americans have used marijuana in the past year. 2

38% of Americans believe marijuana is a gateway drug. 2

46% of Americans favor legalizing marijuana. 11

48% of Americans have tried marijuana. 2

50% of Christian young adults favor marijuana legalization. 17

52% of Americans want the federal government to honor states marijuana laws. 16

52% of New Mexico voters want to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana. 26

52% of Americans support legalized marijuana. 28

52% of Americans favor legalization of marijuana. 9

53% of Louisianans support legalized marijuana. 3

53% of Maryland residents want marijuana taxed and regulated like alcohol. 12

54% of Missouri voters favor a legalized and tightly regulated retail sale model. 20

56% of Arizonans favor legalizing marijuana. 18

57% of New Mexico residents favor decriminalizing marijuana for adults. 26

57% of Americans want adult use of marijuana legalized. 10

58% of Texans want legalized marijuana. 23

58% of Hawaiians favor decriminalization of marijuana use by all adults. 24

59% of New Jersey residents want legalized marijuana. 6

59% of Oklahomans favor marijuana decriminalization. 8

60% of North Carolinians would pass a Lowest Law Enforcement Priority law. 22

60% of Americans think federal marijuana laws should not be enforced in states that allow marijuana use. 27

61% of New Jersey residents want marijuana decriminalized. 6

62% of Floridians support medical marijuana. 13

65% of Californians support legalizing marijuana. 1

65% of Minnesotans favor medical marijuana. 21

67% of Michigan voters want relaxed marijuana laws. 7

69% of Canadians want either legalized or decriminalized marijuana use nationally. 4

71% of Oklahomans want medical marijuana. 8

72% of Americans believe government efforts to enforce marijuana laws cost more than they are worth. 27

75% of Washington, DC residents favor decriminalization of marijuana. 19

76% of doctors internationally favor the medicinal use of marijuana. 14

77% of Americans believe marijuana has medical benefits. 2

79% of New Hampshire residents support medical marijuana. 25

81% of Hawaiians are happy with their current medical marijuana program. 24

82% of Americans think we are losing the war on drugs. 5

82% of New York State voters support medical marijuana. 15

85% of Americans think adults should be able to use marijuana if prescribed by a physician. 11

 

REFERENCES: 

1 Tulchin, Sept. 2013 stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/2013/oct/17/twothirds_californians_say_legal

2  Gallup, 2013. www.golocalprov.com/news/New-Gallup-Poll-Shows-38-of-Americans-Have-Tried-Marijuana-/

3  Public Policy Polling, July 2013 www.thedailychronic.net/2013/25498/louisianians-favor-marijuana-legalization-poll-finds/

4 Forum Research, August 2013 www.thedailychronic.net/2013/25395/legalize-decriminalize-marijuana-say-canadians/

5 Rasmussen, August 2013.  www.thedailychronic.net/2013/25356/poll-finds-4-americans-think-winning-war-drugs/

6 Lake Research, June 2013 www.thedailychronic.net/2013/21911/new-jersey-voters-ready-to-decriminalize-marijuana-poll-finds/

7 Epic-MRA, September 2013 www.thedailychronic.net/2013/25604/majority-supports-marijuana-reform-michigan/

8 Sooner Poll, September 2013 www.thedailychronic.net/2013/25668/poll-oklahomans-ready-marijuana-law-reform/

9 Pew, March 2013 www.people-press.org/2013/04/04/majority-now-supports-legalizing-marijuana/

10 HuffPost/YouGov, April 2013 www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/19/marijuana-poll_n_3112263.html

11 Fox News, February 2013 www.foxnews.com/politics/interactive/2013/05/01/fox-news-poll-85-percent-voters-favor-medical-marijuana/

12 Public Policy Polling, September 2013 www.retrieverweekly.com/news/support-growing-for-marijuana-policy-reform-in-maryland-1.3078911#.UmGDKFBJP3o

13 Public Policy Polling, September 2013 www.sunshinestatenews.com/blog/medical-marijuana-amendment-solid-shape-new-poll

14 New England Journal of Medicine, May 2013 www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMclde1305159

15 Sienna Research, May 2013www.siena.edu/uploadedfiles/home/parents_and_community/community_page/sri/independent_research/SNY0513%20DrugPolicyCrosstabs1.pdf

16 Reason-Rupe, May 2013 reason.com/assets/db/13687576664698.pdf

17 Public Religion Research, April 2013 publicreligion.org/research/2013/04/april-2013-prri-rns-survey/

18 Behavior Research Center, April 2013 www.brcpolls.com/13/RMP%202013-II-08.pdf

19 Public Policy Polling, April 2013 www.mpp.org/states/district-of-columbia/PPP_DC_Marijuana_Survey_Results.pdf

20 DHM Research, March 2013 www.thedailychronic.net/2013/16678/missouri-poll-finds-majority-support-for-regulating-marijuana/

21 Public Policy Poling, March 2013 www.mpp.org/states/minnesota/MinnesotaResults.pdf

22 Public Policy Polling, March 2013 www.thedailychronic.net/2013/16243/north-carolina-voters-support-low-priority-marijuana-law-enforcement/

23 Public Policy Polling, 2013 www.mpp.org/assets/pdfs/states/PPP-Texas-Poll-2013.pdf

24 QMark Research, January 2013 acluhawaii.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/dpagmarijuanapolicyfindings.pdf

25 U. of New Hampshire, January 2013 www.thedailychronic.net/2013/15476/poll-almost-80-of-new-hampshire-voters-support-medical-marijuana/

26 Research and Polling, February 2013 www.thedailychronic.net/2013/15826/poll-shows-new-mexicos-growing-momentum-for-marijuana-policy-reform/

27 Pew, March 2013 www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/08/13/americans-skeptical-of-value-of-enforcing-marijuana-laws/

28 Esquire/NBC News, August 2013 nbcpolitics.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/10/15/20960588-the-new-american-center-why-our-nation-isnt-as-divided-as-we-think?lite

Source: The Compassion Chronicles

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About Author

"Rick Thompson was the Editor in Chief for the entire 2-year run of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Magazine, was the spokesman for the Michigan Association of Compassion Centers and is the current Editor and Lead Blogger for The Compassion Chronicles. Rick has addressed committees in both the House and Senate, has authored over 200 articles on marijuana and is a professional photographer." Rick Thompson Is An Author At The Compassion Chronicles and focuses on all things Michigan.

54 Comments

  1. I love the hypocrisy of being accused of using inflammatory language by a person that says “polarizing words dripped with blood.” I will give your criticism all the attention it deserves.

  2. Dear mystery Guest: I’m dying to know what you have to say… If you are having trouble with Disqus software, feel free to post a question.

  3. Sorry, the GOP could declare their “highest” priority is full legalization before the next election (very unlikely) and I still wouldn’t vote for any of them. Extreme conservatism has become a religion, not a political philosophy, and I think some of their fringe elements are as threatening to world peace and global stability as Al Queda.

  4. Marijuana advocates and friends make up the largest Affinity Group in the Nation and could guarantee 5 or more points in any election, anywhere, that is enough to swing primaries and elections. We would support any candidate that will advance our righteous cause.

  5. A congressional intervention sounds like a lot of fun, but a better idea would be to just put cannabis in their water supply. Surely the Chinese can help us with that? :-)

  6. Ok — We’ve just been through a mess than was caused by Republican members of the House and Senate. It was reported in both the press and by a couple of Congress folks that many of those who voted were drunk. Drunks are mean – as well as too inebriated to competently carry on business. There are even bars on both floors. So since many of these people are “high functioning” alcoholics, we need to make a deal where we get marijuana legalized or we start a fight to get Congress sober and keep Congress sober throughout their votes. If the switch to MJ, at least they might be mellow and the country run better.

  7. I believe this issue should transcend party lines. Further I believe this is an issue that is best decided by the states themselves.

  8. Why dont Republicans make it about states rights and not drugs. Let the ppl in the states make the laws for their lands. If you dont like a law vote it out or move to a state with more ppl who share your ideals.

  9. *You* are going to throw stones about being partisan?
    LOL — I’ve read your posts. Glass houses, pal.

  10. This article is an example of how not to use politics in the legalization movement. It seemed the guy was trying to stay neutral, but his democrat polarizing words dripped with blood.
    Do we really want legalization to become a wedge issue? I absolutely loved Mason Tavert’s campaign. He reached out to all factions in a state that is considered by most as a battle ground state. He did not allow party bashing, or the use of polarizing words. He made it simple and boring, and I have yet to hear Rs and Ds bash each other over legalization in Colorado. Think about it, politicians love to make something a wedge issue; and it seems like wedge issues never die. If you can find a better model for legalization than Mason Tavert’s, I would be the first to sign up.

  11. Capital markets absolutely LOVE, LOVE, LOVE debt, so I don’t know how you fit that in to your national debt theory. This unsustainability that you mention is just one viewpoint. Don’t believe everything the economists and politicians tell you, okay? Macro-economic theories are just that… theories. It’s not like provable science.

    And I agree with you — throw all the bums out after two terms! Or now! Don’t keep reading, get to work! :-)

  12. “Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter.” — Vice President Dick Cheney
    BTW, I don’t consider funding that keeps people from freezing to death “pork spending”

  13. You might want to check your facts regarding the shutdown, it wasn’t the Republicans that caused the problem in the first place. I offer this factual information as a long-term Independent who’s been a weed supporter for years.

    The national debt has grown out of control, is unsustainable, and has put the country in the deepest financial hole in history due to mindless spending and pork add-ons whenever any legislation is introduced, including the current continuing resolution.
    What we need is term limits (2 max!). That would ensure a perpetual changeover of all representatives and a better opportunity for introducing/passing common sense legislation regarding legalization and safety for law-abiding dispensaries and patients.

  14. I think our Guest is speechless.
    At this point, I think I’m just entertaining myself with these posts, but I’m laughing anyway…

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