Over the last decade, the issue of marijuana legalization has gained incredible steam in the United States, both culturally and politically. When it comes to popular culture in the country, marijuana has been normalized and in politics it is an issue that is still taboo, but can be talked about without causing a candidate or political figure to then have to deal with a major scandal.
To clarify: this will not be an article about the history of marijuana in America. That subject has been well covered over the years and there are plenty of articles out there to educate people on the history of this plant and its use in America, as well as the coordinated efforts to make it illegal and stigmatize those who make use of it.
Instead, this article is about marijuana’s current position in the political world, specifically that it is an issue the Republican party could and should steal away from the Democrats.
Potentially the most crucial way marijuana could impact the Republican brand is the fact that it has always been a youth issue. And if there’s one area where the Republicans have lost a lot of ground over the years, it has been with embracing the youth of America and winning their support.
The disconnect between the Republicans and America’s youth comes from the fact that the youth support several big issues that the Republicans don’t; such issues include marijuana legalization, marriage equality, and to a degree income equality and preservation of the environment.
With marijuana, the Republicans could extend an olive branch to America’s youth and say, “we understand where you’re coming from.”
Personally, this writer believes embracing the issue of marijuana and its legalization would more than likely be a way for the Republicans to deceive young people into believing the party is coming around on social issues they have been vehemently against for decades than the party actually beginning to come around.
Sadly, subterfuge is part of the political game and has become more and more critical to playing the game over the last 35 years or so. Because of this, it will not be going away any time soon.
The best way the Republicans could adopt marijuana as an issue they could champion is by merging it with another issue they have been a very loud champion of: state’s rights.
In recent years, the Republican party has been very loud about the need for greater state’s rights in America and the “scourge” of big government. The Republican narrative is that the federal government is too big and is infringing on the rights of individual states to govern themselves. When it comes to marijuana, there is already good evidence to support this narrative.
Marijuana is currently legal for medical purposes, recreational purposes, or both in 23 states and Washington D.C. However, because of the downright stupid mindset of the federal government concerning marijuana (it’s still a Schedule I substance), they don’t recognize the fact that legalization in these states came about through the will of the people via the vote.
A consequence of this mindset is that banks would not give loans to marijuana businesses for years and years, meaning that businesses both big and small would be crippled before they even had a chance to get off the ground.
And the harm it has done to the lives of non-violent people arrested for possession or even growing could be an entire series of articles.
So if the Republicans wanted to push their big government narrative to a different level, molding marijuana legalization into it could be very effective.
One characterization of the Republican party that has gained a lot of acceptance over the years is that they are a party consumed by greed and obsessed with money, specifically those that have the most of it. Well, marijuana legalization has already been shown to generate a good amount of revenue for the states where it is legal.
On Monday, the Huffington Post reported that legal marijuana generated more than $70 million for the state of Washington during its first year of legalization. This doesn’t appear to be isolated to only Washington as Colorado (the first state to legalize recreational marijuana) has made so much more money than expected from sales that they were mulling having to give some of the money back to the public earlier this year.
The key thing to remember is that all of this revenue is money that otherwise would not be pumped into these states. We’re talking about tens of millions of dollars per year that can be put to use or can help states that may have financial difficulties. It may not be enough to solve everything in every state, but there’s no way that it can’t be a financial helping hand.
The biggest reason that the Republican party needs to adopt marijuana as an issue they could champion is that the people that are against marijuana not only seem out of touch with the times, but also have the dumbest arguments and reasons against legalization.
Take Annapolis Police Chief Michael A. Pristoop, who cited a story from The Daily Currant, an online comedy magazine, that said 37 marijuana-related deaths occurred the day the state legalized the plant. And when Pristoop owned up to his mistake, he only owned the mistake and not his “source,” calling the story “an urban legend,” instead of what it actually was: a satirical story with no basis in reality.
Then there’s the Carson City, Nevada police chief who claimed marijuana was the cause of violent crimes in the city and not meth or heroin. Let the stupidity of that sink in for a moment.
And finally, and most embarrassingly, there was Utah DEA agent Matt Fairbanks who basically asked people to think about the rabbits and the harm that marijuana legalization in the state would do to them. That is not a joke, but Fairbanks sure looked like one for trying to make an anti-legalization case with stoned rabbits as his main point.
These are only three examples, but they best demonstrate all that people against marijuana legalization have left to run with: fairy tales, fear mongering and the expectation that the American public is stupid enough to buy what they’re selling. All of it is embarrassing and downright insulting to any person who has common sense and even average intelligence.
Unfortunately for the Republicans, because some of their most well-known politicians are among those loudly against the plant (talkin’ to you Chris Christie), it adds to the Republican party’s national reputation as the out of touch party.
The good news for any Republican that wants to see the party get behind marijuana and its legalization is that there are signs that the party is beginning to embrace this issue.
For starters, Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul has been the politician within the party most vocal about the need for marijuana legalization in recent years.
Then there’s the blow the party itself struck for marijuana last year when the Republican-lead house voted to restrict the DEA’s ability to target medical marijuana in states where it is legal.
Along with this move, republican politicians have become more involved in the fight for marijuana legalization in this country with Paul working with democratic senators on a bill that would help end the federal ban on marijuana. And possibly most surprising was Texas republican congressman David Simpson’s passionate decry of marijuana prohibition and the need for its legalization.
And if a Republican from Texas has become one of marijuana’s biggest advocates within the party, there is plenty of hope that the rest of the party will see that marijuana and its legalization nationwide is something that is coming and that they should hop aboard that proverbial train before it leaves the station for good.