Is GOP Leadership Out of Touch With Voters on Cannabis?
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.
Or, as Quinnipiac put it: “REPUBLICANS OUT OF STEP WITH U.S. VOTERS ON KEY ISSUES … MOST VOTERS SUPPORT LEGALIZED MARIJUANA”
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.
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.”
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.