In collaboration with Justice Democrats, Data for Progress recently released a data analysis study that ultimately throws shade at Democrats who, for purely political reasons, don't actively support a change in cannabis legalization. The Future of the Party argues that Democrats often show little backbone in supporting progressive issues, and the study made several observations about cannabis in particular, including the following:
The House: National polling data suggests there is evidence that Democrats are being too conservative. For instance, legal marijuana has rapidly growing support in public opinion surveys, but only 26 percent of House Democrats support it.
The Senate: Though support for legalizing marijuana is strong among the general public, it is depressingly low among Senate Democrats, with only two Democrats (Ron Wyden and Kirsten Gillibrand) co-sponsoring Cory Booker's Marijuana Justice Act of 2017 (S.1689.).
(Note: Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, joined the bill after this report came out.)
The Electorate: According to the American National Election Studies 2016 survey, 72 percent of Democrats, 68 percent of Independents, and 45 percent of Republicans (excluding individuals who said they didn't know) support legalizing marijuana.
Millennials: Legalizing cannabis is also popular with individuals under 40, with 74 percent supporting legalizing marijuana, compared with 53 percent of those 40 or older. More than 4 in 5 young Democrats support legal marijuana.
Even Republican Millennials: Even young Republicans are supportive (61 percent). In addition, private polling of deep red districts suggests that even there, legal marijuana garners strong support.
As the study demonstrates, advocates must be mindful of all the fronts in the fight to legalize cannabis. Sure, we must stand up to Anslinger throwbacks like Kevin Sabet and Jeff Sessions, but we must also push so-called progressives to do more than just offer lip service. This includes writing and calling your local representatives, taking part in rallies and marches, and participating in election primaries and caucuses.
Regarding the later, consider the gubernatorial race in New York. The odds are against Cynthia Nixon unseating Andrew Cuomo, but the outspoken cannabis advocate cut his lead by 16 points in the last month alone. She made cannabis a major campaign issue, and now the anti-legalization governor has suddenly become more progressive on the issue, saying last week that "the situation has changed drastically with marijuana." And by "situation," he probably means the polls.
A majority of Democratic politicians seem to fear a conservative backlash for supporting legalization more than they fear a progressive backlash for inaction. Until this changes, progress on social issues will only see baby steps, if not outright regression.
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