Backing pot legalization becomes a political plus

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This could be great news if it holds up.

Tom Angell at the website Marijuana Moment is reporting that a poll of voters in 60 “battleground” Congressional districts found that candidates who favor marijuana legalization are more likely to get elected than those who don’t.

These are the races that will probably decide which party controls the House of Representatives in the next Congress.

The poll of 800 likely voters found that 60 percent favored ending marijuana prohibition, and that 79 percent favored legalizing medical marijuana. Those numbers are consistent with a number of national polls taken in the past year.

The more interesting finding in the survey is that 44 percent of voters in the battleground districts said they were more likely to vote for a candidate who supports legalization, versus 33 percent who said they would be less likely. Moreover, 26 percent of those polled said they would be “much more likely” to vote for a pro-pot candidate. (The story didn’t state how many would be “much less likely.”)

However it did state that 55 percent of voters would be “more likely” to vote in November if a marijuana initiative was on the ballot in their state.

At least four states will have or are likely to have marijuana legalization questions on their ballots this fall: Michigan, North Dakota, Missouri and Utah.

The Michigan and North Dakota initiatives call for full legalization. Utah will vote on legalization of medical marijuana. Missouri voters may vote on as many as three separate medical marijuana questions. (It’s complicated.)

Also, in Oklahoma two initiative petitions for constitutional amendments are being circulated — one to legalize medical marijuana and one for full legalization. Last month Oklahoma voters passed a medical marijuana initiative as an initiated law instead of a constitutional amendment, which meant the state’s socially conservative state legislature could mess with it.

Which it immediately started to do.

Supporters of the initiative charged the legislature was attempting to thwart the will of the voters and immediately started circulating separate petitions for medical and recreational legalization as state constitutional amendments, which the legislature can’t change.

As of last Sunday they had more than 118,000 signatures on the recreational marijuana petition. They need 123,725 to get on the ballot and would like to get 150,000 to survive signature disqualifications. By law the petitions have to be submitted by Aug. 8.

It’s not known how many of the battleground congressional districts live in these states, but there’s a good chance a number of them do.

All five states voted for Trump in 2016.

All of this is good news, but the poll’s results should be viewed with some caution.

The polling, which was done by Lake Research, took place last February, which means the results may be getting a little long in the tooth. (On the other hand, since support for legalization is spiking nationally, it wouldn’t be surprising if the numbers came out the same or better if the same questions were asked today).

The poll was commissioned by MedMen Enterprises, a marijuana dispensary chain with stores in several eastern states.

The sample size, 800 likely voters, is too small to draw any conclusions about any of the 60 individual districts.

More seriously, the news story about it didn’t contain the actual questions or the proportion of Democrats, Republicans and independents in the sample.

It’ll be interesting to see if the results are corroborated by further battleground state polling and by polling in individual toss-up-rated congressional districts. That sort of polling isn’t all that common, but there will be some in the coming weeks.

One sign the poll is on target is that candidates in red and battleground states are beginning to campaign as though it is.

For instance, in Ohio, Democratic Representative Tim Ryan, who co-chairs the House Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus, wrote an op-ed for CNN in which he called for legalizing marijuana “in all 50 states” and endorsed New Jersey Democratic Senator Cory Booker’s bill to legalize pot at the federal level. His Republican opponent, Chris DePizzo, countered by endorsing the bill co-sponsored by Colorado Republican Senator Cory Gardner and Massachusetts Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren that makes marijuana legalization a state decision that the federal government must respect.

Ohio Republican Congressman Bill Johnson took a similar approach, saying that legalizing medical marijuana (which Ohio has done) is “opening a door in our culture that is going to be awfully difficult for us to walk back through,” but that “it is a state and not a federal issue.”

Ah, candidates for Congress in swing districts arguing over whether pot should be legalized at the state level or the federal level. Life is good.

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