The 2004 presidential election saw a large number of states voting on ballot measures to approve or ban same-sex marriage in their respective state constitutions. Many political analysts point to this as a strategy employed by the Bush campaign to bring socially conservative voters out to vote against gay marriage while voting for President Bush’s second term.

In 2016, it appears as though the social issue at the forefront may well be states determining whether to decriminalize marijuana. Report from The American Prospect:

In Politico, Reid Cherlin has an article about the “Pot Primary” in which he makes the rather odd assertion that while the next Democratic president is likely to put him/herself where President Obama is on the issue, “Less predictable is what would happen under a Republican—or how the issue might play out in a volatile Republican primary. No one expects marijuana to be the deciding issue, but then again, it might well be a helpful way for the contenders to highlight their differences.”

Yeah, no. Apart from the possibility of some talk about not sentencing people to overly long prison terms for possession, there isn’t going to be a debate amongst 2016 GOP candidates on this issue. The debate will all be on the Democratic side.

But for Democrats, it’s a more complicated story. There’s a safe position to take right now, which is some kind of middle way, the “I understand where you’re coming from, and I support medical marijuana with strict regulations, but I just can’t bring myself to support full legalization” position. And what does that remind you of? It’s where Democrats were on gay marriage between 2004, when everybody finally had to take a stand, and 2010 or so.

At the beginning of the 2004 campaign, even support for civil unions was considered a radical position. But then it became a topic of genuine debate, and by the end of that campaign, the default position for Democrats was support of civil unions but opposition to full marriage equality. Then we kept on debating it, public opinion kept moving, and today, there is not a single Democrat with national ambitions who doesn’t support full marriage equality.

I’d tend to agree that on the Republican side, with perhaps the exception of Rand Paul, there will not be much support for decriminalizing marijuana. On the Democratic side, it will be a different story.

The question is, can marijuana decriminalization be used as a wedge issue to bring more young, Democrat-leaning voters to the polls like gay marriage was used to bring more older, Republican voters to the polls in 2004?

33 COMMENTS

  1. With all we have going so sour in our country and thisis a issue??? Maybe a derrerient from the critical problems, yes, problems, no issues present, problens big time!!!!!

    • Betty, this is an issue because on the heels of the SCOTUS declaring that gay marriage is a state issue rather than a federal one (which point anyone who can read the constitution already knew), this new wave will likely sweep right across the country and paralyze the federal “war on drugs”. It was clear when the 18th amendment was passed that the whole country knew that the federal government (prior to the 18th) had no right to ban a substance. After the 21st amendment passed, it was clear that the whole country knew that the federal government no longer had the right to ban a substance. Somewhere along the way, a lot of people lost sight of that fact.

      This could put a laser focus on federal/state rights like we’ve not seen in a very long time. And when that happens, I predict that it will suddenly become obvious to the whole country that states have no right to limit RtKBA, just as the federal government has no such right.

      It is high time that both sides of the aisle got back to respecting the law across the board.

  2. It makes little sense to argue here the right and wrong of legalizing pot since the issue seems to be “will it be the next ballot issue”.

    As long as defining a moral failing up can produce a major constituency it will be on the ballot. We’ve been on this slippery slope for years. Legalizing gambling casino’s, gay marriage, prostitution, off track betting, pot will all fall if they can convince the public it is a victimless crime or it can bring in money to the state coffers. Unfortunately no one looks down the road at the consequences to the people who can lest afford it nor the ineptitude of the government regulators.

  3. I’m not so sure. The gay constituency in the Democratic party knew how and when to hit, often costing Dems elections, but gaining acceptability. I don’t think there’s that kind of organized support for pot legalization–since they even sent Tommy Chong (Cheech & Chong) to jail for selling bongs, for cryin’ out loud.

    But I did hear an interesting interview in which the speaker said that most states have one-party rule now–with governor AND legislatures in the same party. That has allowed gay marriage and pot promotion. for example, in Dem states; and such things as union busting and abortion restrictions in GOP-controlled states.

    The speaker said it was as if, having complete control, one party or the other could use the state as a testing ground to try out unorthodox ideas, to see how they would work in real life.

    After all, prohibition seemed prudish but not dangerous in theory, but was a national disaster in practice. So we could have individual states make the mistakes, and we wouldn’t all suffer from extreme experiments. Interesting thought.

    • Individual states should make the mistakes (or have success) at the state level. Fifty laboratories of policy making. I’d much prefer states making these decisions since I can move myself in or out of a state to reap the benefits or get away from laws I disagree with. Once the feds get involved, only moving choice is Belize.

      • Nate/Goethe;

        I have no doubts that the people who wish to partake of a joint and live close to the Colorado state line will go across the border to purchase what they need and go back home again. Just as we did when we were kids went across state borders to purchase booze. Just as gay couples are going across stateliness to get married.

        I totally agree with the “50 laboratories of policy making” that you speak of but it works better when it concerns internal issues like tax policies or something that involves only the residents of that state. If people from other states see an attractive policy which they want to use they can always move to that state just as businesses are moving out of New York or California to take advantage of lower taxes else where. The interstate trafficking mentioned above only makes a joke of these state laws.

        • Similarly the people who live near D.C. go to different states to do different types of shopping, because sales taxes are applied and structured differently.

  4. Another aspect I neglected to mention above was the bureaucratic power that goes with the sale, regulation, taxing and legislating this new found money pot. Can you imagine any politician passing up this win-win opportunity ?

    The use of pot is sold to the public as non-addictive, alleviates pain and no more harmful to you than booze. This soothing argument is hardly needed when you take into consideration the second fact. The number of Americans who use or have used pot dwarfs the number of Americans directly affected by gay marriage which was accepted recently and thus makes it an enormous constituency.

  5. I think the marijuana issue will rise or fall on its own merits. It’s not a stalking horse for other issues although it probably will bring out a few younger voters which will hurt the GOP a bit. In any case, we’re paying the police, courts and prisons to incarcerate tens of thousands of harmless, nonviolent potheads, and by virtually any measure, alcohol is far more dangerous than pot and most other illegal drugs. Alcohol is just more widely accepted. http://www.alternet.org/story/47815/pot_prisoners_cost_americans_$1_billion_a_year

    • Godfrey:

      I was wondering when that old argument would show up as I expressed yesterday in my 2:02 PM post.

      The pot vs booze argument has been framed in this comparison for years in a back of the hand wave off in order to wallpaper over any concerns of it eventually leading to harder drugs. I don’t believe that is the problem however but pot smoking vs getting high is the point. Millions of people have a social drink with their dinner or at a ball game without being drunk and impairing their senses. The main purpose of smoking weed however is to get high which affects your senses and any denial of this is living in a bubble. In addition putting smoke into your body with tobacco has been proven to do harm and putting this smoke in is no different.

      Now I know you are going to fall back on the “it’s for medical purposes to relieve pain” yadda, yadda, yadda. This is the same lame excuse they used during Probition in order to buy booze legally. But lets be honest about this the majority of the population in Colorado aren’t in such pain that it’s causing shortages in the shops that sell it. They are buying and using it for recreation purposes.If the good people of Colorado need to be inebriated to deal with life they have a problem.

      Now let me finish by saying I have never tried it …….yeah I know as hard as that is to believe me being a child of the 60’s but it’s the God’s honest truth. I also couldn’t care less if you want to put this into your body or not. So I’m not going to get into any lengthly discussion with you on this because I really don’t care. I’m sure this isn’t going to change your mind but I’m just stating an argument that I feel has been overlooked through the years and something to consider.

  6. Bob – I have tried it (multiple times) and it does change reality. It changes your personal reality of time, most are relaxed, but some have hallucinations (one of my ex’s, but i think she got a hold of non-pure Mexican-dirt-weed – never tried it again tho). If stopped while driving there is no calibrated test for amount, mostly yes-no, even tho the law has set up values. Lawmakers want it passed, like gambling, for the tax revenue and to appease the Liberals. It is bullshit that it is a pain reliever for Cancer, your mind just doesn’t comprehend quite as quickly that, “Damn, I hurt!”. There is basically 0 difference between Medical and Recreational Weed ‘cept you have to have a medical cert to buy medical weed. It is truly more dangerous than alcohol if driving because, “Man, should i stop for that sign or not and when should I brake, Shit, I just missed it.” or “Who says this is speed i should drive at, i know better than they do – Geez what speed am I doin’ anyway??” “Hey, man, it’s all good, pass the bottle of Merlot, will ya’!”

    Pure Political Money (taxes) and Liberal Appeasement.

    • Sam:

      I don’t smoke at all and never have. The reason being I played ball when I was younger and not being one of the fastest kids I didn’t need anything else to take away my speed.

      While I was out this afternoon I jotted down some thoughts most of which you covered in your post above. Some of them went like this. Can the state governments use figures as to how much the sale of marijuana is serving the needs of the public if a majority is from cross state influx sales? If the citizens of the state want to stop the sale because of crime or accidents caused by the cross state influx will the politicians comply? Will the politicians be willing to give up this cash cow under any circumstances?(see my post of 16th January @ 5:31 PM for reasons they probably wouldn’t)

      Below is an article from the CNN web site dated 16th January 2014 entitled “Even Lady Ga Ga Knows Pot Is Not Harmless” with a link provided to her interview.
      http://edition.cnn.com/2014/01/16/opinion/bennett-keep-pot-illegal/index.html

      I can only speak from what I witnessed of friends who smoked it. Thanks for your input on this.

  7. If liberals were smart, they’d point out the areas where they agree with libertarian ideals–such as FOR rational pot laws, personal privacy rights–including freedom from spying as well as freedom in personal relationships, abortion rights, legal rights of the accused, and AGAINST religion-imposition laws, our massive incarceration level, international military adventurism and empire building, as well as pervasive corporate welfare/subsidies.

    Likewise, libertarians should look at those places where the establishment GOP stands AGAINST personal liberties and FOR big government spying and spending. [Did you hear that “earmarks” are back?]

    Libertarians are taken for granted by the GOP and ignored by the Dems. Libertarians should push their own agenda in their OWN party, and screw the “Big Two.”

    • Goethe:

      Below you will find the web site for the “Libertarian Party” and a listing of their agenda.

      Contrary to public belief I don’t find you are wasting your vote or anything illegitimate about any of the Third Parties…they are there for a purpose. I took advantage of voting Libertarian in 2004 for Michael Badnarik who received 397,367 votes for President.

      http://www.lp.org/

      Your above post makes it sound like the Democrats are against “spying and spending”. Nothing could be further from the truth ! I’m not saying republicans didn’t spy but President Obama has taken it to a new level both domestically and internationally. As far as spending again both parties are guilty BUT the Democrats have been known as the “tax and spend” party for decades.

    • Goethe – AGREED What i wouldn’t donate to have the Libertarian Party take the lead. Both Koch and I belong to the Libertarian Party and the Tea Party – Koch does some backing but i would love to see him go advertising wild and a national campaign for us, maybe even a super bowl ad.
      http://connect.freedomworks.org/

      Bob – a lot of Dems, except the Socialists, are against the spying.

  8. @ Bob: “…pot smoking vs getting high is the point. Millions of people have a social drink with their dinner or at a ball game without being drunk and impairing their senses. The main purpose of smoking weed however is to get high which affects your senses and any denial of this is living in a bubble.”

    Bob, if people want beer without the buzz, they can drink O’Douls, but very few do. The fact is they WANT the buzz. The same is true for pot, although pot doesn’t make a lot of people aggressive and stupid, and it doesn’t impair their attention and coordination as much as alcohol. The guy swerving down the road at 20 over the speed limit is the drunk. They guy putting along at 10 UNDER the speed limit is the pot head.
    But the real issue is, what is the justification for banning one drug which is less harmful, while leaving other drugs legal, such as tobacco and alcohol, which are more harmful?

    http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2010/11/drugs_cause_most_harm
    http://drbenkim.com/ten-most-dangerous-drugs.html
    http://thomaskleppesto.tumblr.com/post/26149335063/the-relative-dangers-of-drugs-what-the-science-says

    @ Bob: “Now I know you are going to fall back on the “it’s for medical purposes to relieve pain” yadda, yadda, yadda.”

    Bob, I made no such argument.

    • Godfrey;

      Have you ever tasted O’Douls?

      That’s not true that people who drink want a buzz and is simply opinion on your part. Of course using any alcohol in excess can be dangerous to yourself and others but that isn’t what we are talking about.If you have a beer or glass of wine with your dinner and get sloppy drunk then you shouldn’t drink in the first place. As far as people getting aggressive and stupid once again the comparisons you give are pure speculation on your part and any articles given as fact can I suppose be countered by opposing views. I have seen plenty of people who after smoking marijuana are paranoid and unable to walk no less drive.

      As I have said I never tried it but from what I have seen it is not as “harmless’ as your back handed dismissal expresses. I also have no intention of attempting to talk you out of using it…….so therefore we can agree that we disagree and close this conversation.

      @ Godfrey: I anticipated your next tact in your argument would be the using for medical purposes so I thought we can just cut to the chase .

  9. @ Bob: “@ Godfrey: I anticipated your next tact in your argument would be the using for medical purposes so I thought we can just cut to the chase”

    Bob, you would do better to respond to what people actually say instead of what.your biases tell you they would say.
    You would also do well to not simply deny well-known facts but to document your “opinions.” That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

    http://www.theguardian.com/science/2005/jul/21/thisweekssciencequestions

    http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/alcoholfuture.htm

    http://psychcentral.com/news/2011/09/02/making-stupid-mistakes-when-drunk-heres-how/29128.html

    http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa38.htm

    http://www.foxnews.com/health/2014/01/15/alcohol-consumption-is-direct-cause-80000-yearly-deaths-in-americas/

    http://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/impaired_driving/impaired-drv_factsheet.html

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fetal_alcohol_syndrome

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/03/marijuana-deaths_n_3860418.html

    http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/22/opinion/riffle-marijuana-safety/

    @Bob: “As I have said I never tried it but from what I have seen it is not as “harmless’ as your back handed dismissal expresses.”

    Thank you for confessing your complete lack of personal knowledge about marijuana.

    • Godfrey:

      Yes I do admit to not having any personal experience with the drug I didn’t hide that point. In fact I told you that this is OPINION.Obviously you are a frequent user of the drug and have no intention of changing nor is it my intention on attempting to change you.

      By listing numerous left leaning sources as your proof (CNN, Huffington Post etc.) you seem to be the one using what people who support your view say to support your bias. In addition you give links to document the perils of booze. I NEVER DENIED LIQUOR WAS DANGEROUS WHEN TAKEN IN EXCESS therefore your “proof” is moot. After all IT WORKS BOTH WAYS ” It can be asserted that those who provide biased evidence can be dismissed as not having evidence.”

      • Girls, Girls! You’re both pretty!

        Now, can you both just admit that the *federal* government has no legal authority (Title 26 notwithstanding) to ban or control production or use of alcohol OR marijuana cannabis OR hemp cannabis OR raw milk OR, well, you get the idea.

        • Neville…never underestimate the power of the federal government if it decides to spread it’s wings. The Controlled Substances Act (1970) makes marijuana a Schedule I substance. Cultivation and distribution (which includes gift as well as sale) are felonies; possession for personal use is a misdemeanor. Use is not itself a crime, but there is no way to use marijuana without possessing it first. Cultivating 100 marijuana plants or more carries a mandatory sentence of five years or more under federal law. While true that the majority of marijuana drug busts are made by state and local police, the federal DEA (drug enforcement agents) operates with immunity in all states. The Obama Administration has yet to announce a clear policy on the new laws. President Obama said there is a need for “conversation” about reconciling state and federal law. At the same time, he pointed out that the federal law remains in effect and that the executive branch has the responsibility to enforce the laws. No doubt, there will be a reconciliation when each side verifies how each will benefit from all the taxes that will be accrued.

          • Tess, the DEA does not operate with immunity is all states. Local jurisdictions have in the past, and many more are right now, blocking federal LEOs from actions in the local jurisdiction that the local or state law forbids. All the specifics you cited are irrelevant to my point. The federal government is operating ILLEGALLY when it does those things. In order to do it legally, there first would have to be a new Prohibition Amendment to our US Constitution. In the “drug war”, as in many areas, the federal government is operating outside it’s legal authority. Just because a law exists on the books, that does not make the law legal. Re. marijuana and hemp, it has always been recognized that the marijuana ban was simply a public-relations vehicle to get the cultivation of hemp banned (even though its use is allowed and it is used, just not as widespread as it is in the rest of the world, or as it used to be in the USA). The justification of the schedule-1 designation is laughable, even if it were legal. The only real psychoactive component in marijuana, THC, is separated out, copied and produced synthetically, put in this super-strong form in capsules with sesame oil, labelled Marinol, and can be prescribed and refilled as a schedule-3 substance with acknowledged medical uses. It sent my wife into seizures.

            • Neville…In what state(s) is the DEA forbidden to pursue their federal purpose? In what capacity does the government operate outside it’s legal authority? I do know this: if a law, federal or state, has been passed through the national or state congress process, it is a legal law until it has been nullified. An amendment to the Constitution isn’t needed. Either the state or federal government would have to go through our Supreme Court for redress to a law. It is of no concern to me, whether marijuana use is legalized or not. Whether it’s having a beer, smoking a cigarette, taking an Ambien, or simply drinking a cup of coffee, most of us engage in drug use in one form or another on a daily basis. it has been proven that nicotine, not heroin, is the most addictive drug known to man. Heroin is illegal and cigarettes are a legal best seller. Too bad the American citizens aren’t making better choices in selecting their forms of social recreation.

          • Fugitive Slave Act, Brady Bill, REAL-ID, gun/ammo regulation, marijuana use, hemp cultivation – state and local refusal to comply with unconstitutional federal legislation has a long and glorious history.

            The point there is that a federal “law” that contravenes the US Constitution is null and void the minute it is signed. This idea that such a “law” is binding on the whole country until such time as somebody decides to ask the SCOTUS if we could please-pretty-please ignore this “law” is exactly the opposite of how it should work. If the US Congress (in cahoots, of course, with the POTUS or one pretending to be POTUS) passes legislation that violates the US Constitution, it is the sworn duty of every law enforcement officer and elected representative who swore an oath to uphold that Constitution to refuse to implement/enforce the subject legislation. To me, it is as simple as that.

            And, for better or worse, heroin is not any more illegal than marijuana, at the federal level. The states are free to decide that issue in any way they want that doesn’t itself contravene the US Constitution (such as, unwarranted searches, bills of attainder, forced self-incrimination, cruel and unusual punishment, due process, etc.). If you want to prohibit substances, then get together enough people/representatives in enough states to pass a new Prohibition amendment and THEN the federal government will have that power. As it is, today, it doesn’t.

  10. Neville….I have no problems with your vision of how things should be…but it just doesn’t work that way.

    • You are (somewhat) right, Tess. The main reason it doesn’t work that way is because of people who accept that “it just doesn’t work that way”. But it is clear that people are starting to get fed up enough (pun fully intended) to, more and more often now, step up to stop the fed’s unconstitutional overreach. Although sheriffs and governors and state legislators are becoming more willing to stand up to the federal government, we need to elect federal legislators who will stop perpetrating this mess on us in the first place.

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