On Sunday, April 19, President Obama spoke to CNN about marijuana. The interview, aired the night before April 20, the unofficial holiday for stoned people around the world, proved Obama to be supportive of progressive legislation. What’s more important about the new medical marijuana legislation being introduced in the Senate is that it has amassed bipartisan support.
When asked about his position on the bill, which was introduced by Democrats Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand and Republican Rand Paul, President Obama said, “I’m on record as saying that not only do I think carefully prescribed medical use of marijuana may in fact be appropriate and we should follow the science as opposed to ideology on this issue, but I’m also on record as saying that the more we treat some of these issues related to drug abuse from a public health model and not just from an incarceration model, the better off we’re going to be.”
The support for progressive, pro-marijuana legislation is part of a national trend in popular support for medical and recreational marijuana policy. A new study from the Pew Research Center found “that 53% [of respondents] favor the legal use of marijuana.” Among millennials (aged 18 to 34), that number jumps to 68 percent in favor of legalizing marijuana use.
As Obama’s second term approaches its final year and candidates on both sides of the aisle begin vying for votes for the 2016 presidential election, marijuana policy positions are more important than ever for potential candidates. The Republican field of candidates, which has traditionally held a conservative, anti-marijuana stance, have for the most part delegated marijuana policy decisions to individual states. This decision most likely has a direct correlation with the popular support figures compiled by Pew mentioned above.
Opposing marijuana legislation is an unpopular stance for a candidate to take. For Republicans looking to cash in on millennial voters (remember 68 percent support marijuana legalization), opposing the legalization of marijuana jeopardizes support from younger generations, which can have disastrous impacts on a campaign.
Last week, “Chris Christie declared that if he were president, he would ‘crack down and not permit’ state legalization of marijuana,” Reason.com reported Monday. “By contrast, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, and Rick Perry all have said that states should be free to legalize marijuana without interference by the federal government.
“If Christie thinks that promising to override state policy choices in this area will endear him to skeptical conservatives, he may be wrong about that.”