Last week I wrote about how Gary Johnson, the probable Libertarian Party nominee for president, and how he has a shot, albeit a long one, at actually getting elected this time around. I failed, however, to mention his advocacy for the legalization of marijuana, so let’s touch on that first.
In addition to his longtime support for legalization, New Mexico’s former governor has been CEO for Cannabis Sativa Inc., a publicly traded company based in Nevada with close ties to New Mexico, primarily through Johnson. He resigned the position Jan. 1, presumably to run for president.
Moreover, Johnson’s a user. According to the Daily Caller last month, he said he had recently consumed some pot in edible form.
“I occasionally use it,” Johnson told the politically conservative website (with a bend toward libertarian thinking) last month. Then he added, “I haven’t had a drink of alcohol in 29 years.”
Will his pot use kill his bid for the presidency? Not if you strictly consider recent polls.
A Gallup poll last October found that 58 percent of the American people now support legalization, and that support shows no sign of topping out anytime soon. When Gallup first posed the question in 1969, only 12 percent supported legalization. That had risen to 30 percent by 2000 and became a majority opinion in 2013, according to the polling and consulting company.
The fact that a supermajority of younger people support legalization—71 percent of those born between 1981 and 1997, while only 40 percent of those born between 1936 and 1950 support legalization—shows that a generational divide exists when it comes to this issue.
Bridging that gap, however, are the Baby Boomers born between 1951 and 1965. At the turn of the millennium, only 35 percent of them favored legalization, but last year they polled at 58 percent. That’s significant, because that’s the biggest voting bloc there is.
Still, will Americans be OK with having a president who consumes marijuana occasionally, as the 63-year-old Johnson said he does? President Obama freely admitted he smoked pot in his younger years, but that’s not nearly the same as having a president getting high in the White House.
And, yes, it’s legal in Washington D.C. Has been since February 2015.
Ballotpedia, an online website that tracks elections around the country, has listed 52 marijuana-related measures on state ballots this year, including 16 states that will vote on legalizing recreational use—far more than ever before.
Such ballot issues are a big plus for any candidate who needs a younger turnout to win.
Of the major party candidates still running for president, only Bernie Sanders has courted the legalization crowd. He supports all-out decriminalization. His Democratic Party primary opponent, Hillary Clinton, has only expressed support for turning it from a Schedule I to a Schedule II drug so its medicinal uses can be more thoroughly researched.
On the Republican side, Donald Trump has flip-flopped in his support for legalization. In 1990, he said he was for it, but now he says he’s opposed. Ted Cruz and John Kasich have been consistent in their opposition to recreational legalization.
All of them have expressed support for states’ rights to establish their own marijuana policies.
Here in New Mexico, we’ve got no marijuana measures on the November ballot this year. State Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Piño’s bill to place the issue before the voters was killed in committee during the last legislative session. And Gov. Susana Martinez has been steadfast in her opposition to legalization (she even opposed medical marijuana legalization prior to becoming governor, though her administration hasn’t interfered with the growth of this industry around the state).
But that doesn’t mean popular support for legalization isn’t there. In a poll earlier this year, the Albuquerque Journal reported that 61 percent of New Mexicans favored legalization.
It’ll be interesting to see how the issue plays out in our 2018 gubernatorial election, but for now all eyes are on how the issue will factor into this year’s elections around the nation.
No single issue will decide this fall’s presidential election, but in a year packed with rebellious voters, it could factor in to who wins.
Especially if Generation X and the Millennials turn out in droves. Who knows, maybe this will be an election in which their votes, and the issue of marijuana, will actually hold sway.