Marijuana legalization may be increasingly popular, but it’s not clearly an electoral bonanza. Support for legalization isn’t very far above 50 percent, if it is in fact, and there are potential downsides. National surveys show that a third of Democrats still oppose marijuana legalization. Seniors, who turnout in high numbers in off year elections, are also opposed. Altogether, it’s very conceivable that there are more votes to be lost than won by supporting marijuana. After all, marijuana legalization underperformed President Obama in Washington State.
Even so, Democratic voters will eventually prevail over cautious politicians, most likely through the primary process. Any liberal rival to Hillary Clinton in 2016 will have every incentive to support marijuana legalization.
But David Harsanyi sees few signs that legalization is becoming the new marriage equality:
Where you stand on gay marriage has become something of a bellwether in Beltway circles, indicative not only of your cultural awareness and political IQ, but your prospects. Either you get 21st century America or you don’t.
Well, what about the Drug War?
As far as I can tell, not a single elected official in Washington actively supports marijuana legalization. Not a single governor. Not a single Senator. And, moreover, few of them have been asked, much less seriously pressed, to explain where they stand on the issue. Some unlikely counterintuitive voices pop up here and there – Tom Tancredo, former congressman, anti-immigration activist and candidate for governor of Colorado and Sen. John McCain are to examples of politician who, to varying degrees, have been open to marijuana legalization – but, despite the growing popularity of the position generally, it’s basically a non issue.
Jonathan Bernstein adds:
Politicians “evolving” on marriage were only worried, really, about current opinion. I’m pretty sure they didn’t worry about a backlash if marriage equality was enacted, and certainly not that if marriage equality took place that newspapers might start running gay marriage horror stories … But politicians will worry that if they support legalization that they could be held responsible for any weed horror stories that emerge — and everyone knows that the press is capable for concocting those, true or not.