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Is GOP Leadership Out of Touch With Voters on Cannabis?

February 23, 2017
a Old vintage microphone on the background of the American flag
A new poll released Thursday by Quinnipiac University has revealed some remarkable trends in support for cannabis legalization. One of the most pertinent takeaways, coming the same day that the White House vowed “greater enforcement” against legal states: A majority of voters, both Republican and Democrat, oppose the government interfering with state-legal cannabis operations.

A full 71 percent of those surveyed said they are against the federal government taking action against states that have legalized cannabis for medical or adult use. Majorities in both parties—80 percent of Democrats and 55 percent of Republicans—said they are against a federal crackdown on cannabis in legal states.



Survey Shows Young Republicans Support Legal Cannabis, Indicating That Legalization is a Non-Partisan Issue

The overwhelming support for respecting state laws, however, didn’t quite translate to full-throated support of  legalization outright. The poll found that 72 percent of Democrats were favored federal, adult-use legalization, while nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of Republicans were opposed.

On the issue of medical marijuana, voters in both parties came out out firmly in favor. A whopping 96 percent of Democratic respondents and 85 percent of Republicans said they support allowing adults using cannabis to treat medical conditions with a doctor’s recommendation.

The responses reflect similar trends toward bipartisan support of legalization that emerged during the November’s presidential election. While cannabis reform has largely been seen as a liberal issue, denigrated as a movement of hippies and freeloaders, it’s no longer a liberal issue. Voters in eight states, including Florida, Arkansas, and North Dakota, approved legalizing cannabis in some capacity last election.


Data Dive: Legalization No Longer a Partisan Issue, Election Data Show

A recent poll out of Texas also showed a spike in cannabis support over the past two years. According to a poll by the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune, 83 percent of Texans support legalizing cannabis in some form, and 53 percent believe cannabis should be available for adult use, not just medicinal purposes.

The polls showing bipartisan support of state-by-state legalization, however, come as GOP leadership—and the White House—in particular, move to ramp up scrutiny of state cannabis programs.

After months of speculation about the implications of a Trump presidency and the appointment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer lent fuel to the industry’s worst fears during a press conference on Thursday, Feb. 23.

Answering a question regarding adult-use cannabis specifically, Spicer replied, “I think you’ll see greater enforcement on that.”


White House Plans ‘Greater Enforcement’ Against Legal Cannabis

Spicer indicated that the Trump administration does recognize the distinction between medical and adult-use marijuana, suggesting the enforcement actions would focus on nonmedical programs.

While Republicans are more likely to support medical cannabis than adult-use measures, Thursday’s poll suggests GOP elders might do well to take a long, hard look at the growing support among Americans of all backgrounds for legal, regulated cannabis before taking action against states.

Lisa Rough's Bio Image

Lisa Rough

Lisa is a former associate editor at Leafly, where she specialized in legislative cannabis policy and industry topics.

View Lisa Rough's articles

  • HippyJesus

    The GOP is simply out of touch with reality. On all major issues. They actively deny the truth and bully those that speak it in favor of their more palatable ‘alternative facts’. Those that study history know that Herr Goebbels would be VERY proud of our media programmes in this country, particularly the FOX media network. I have watched this occur more and more over my lifetime of 40 years. These lies and this entire adminstration are the fruits of the seeds of fascism that were planted in the 1930s. They have transformed our society into one that celebrates lies and hate over truth and love. They seek nothing less than the utter destruction of life on this planet, and they are very close to achieving their goals.

    This is the time for all rainbow warriors, truthsayers, and champions of gaia to stand as one. They are few, we are many. Much love and support to all of you fighting for the truth.

    • John David Wettergreen


  • Tim Murphy

    How hypocritical. I guarantee Trump and his minions were sitting at a big dinner table discussing marijuana while they throw back martinis. I can see it now…”We need to crack down on this marijuana nonsense! Now, who’s ready for another drink?!?”

  • lovingc

    They are out of touch even in their own parties.The repugnats are still fawning over the liar in chief’s being able to read a speech. Trump’s little dog Sessionss is going to be busy till after trump is impeached, covering his own ass.

  • farmerlion

    I’m a life long Republican voter. I don’t recognize any good in either party. The Democrats claim to be the answer for cannabis legalization. But in eight years of a democratic president and yes HILLARY CLINTON. Not a damn thing was done apart from voter initiatives being voted on and passed. ND is a Republican state that voted at 64% for medical cannabis. The state has ignored this vote with arrogance and defiance! New elected officials will be coming and the old guard will be out on their ears in 2018. Peace