Can Marijuana save Democrats’ bacon?

posted at 2:01 pm on July 27, 2014 by Noah Rothman

On Sunday, The New York Times announced a new campaign. In the coming days, members of the Times editorial board will publish a variety of articles investigating the state of the medical debate over the health effects of marijuana consumption, the status of the national conversation over the federal government’s ability to tax and regulate legal cannabis products, and the effects of legalization on the nation’s criminal justice system.

But that debate is a perfunctory exercise, the Times editorial announcing this crusade essentially conceded. That debate, at least in the minds of The Grey Lady’s editorial board, is over. “Repeal prohibition, again,” the editorial’s headline read. In case you thought they were being coy, the board was clearer in the body: “The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana,” it stated plainly.

The arguments in favor of decriminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana long ago won out over those forces which sought to maintain its status as a controlled substance on par with heroin or cocaine. States of varying political cultures from Colorado to Connecticut, from Alaska to Ohio, have instituted decriminalization regimes.

Legalizing Marijuana consumption for those with a medical condition is not even especially controversial anymore. 24 states and Washington D.C. have legalized medical cannabis. But legalization for recreational use, too, is becoming more acceptable in the eyes of Americans.

A recent Palmetto Politics poll of South Carolina voters released a shocking finding: “Six in 10 Democrats, nearly 7 in 10 Independents, and almost half of all Republicans supported the legalization of marijuana.” In South Carolina!

But the vast majority of support for legalization comes from younger, more socially liberal voters who tend to support Democratic candidates at the polls. And that’s why the cynical side of me sees the increasingly frantic push to get marijuana on ballots as servicing an ulterior motive.

Last week, Oregon officials confirmed that voters in that state will be able to cast a ballot for legalized marijuana use. If it passes, The Beaver State will become the third state in the nation, behind Washington and Colorado, to legalize it.

Oregon is also a heated battleground state in the race for control of the U.S. Senate. Conservative columnist George Will outlined why a number of factors prevalent in that Pacific Northwestern state which are benefiting pediatric neurosurgeon Monica Wehby’s campaign against Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR). She, perhaps more than any other candidate in the nation, is positioned to capitalize on the Affordable Care Act’s court challenges and problematic implementation.

But Oregon is a purple state with a decidedly blue hue, and she faces an uphill battle even a national environment which favors the GOP. If the prospect of legal marijuana manages to finally motivate a lethargic base of young liberal voters, all the Obamacare disasters in the world are unlikely to push Wehby over the finish line.

But the true opus for legalization proponents may be in 2016 when the political stakes are far higher.

“Using the successful 2009 casino initiative in Ohio as their model, a new group of medical marijuana supporters plan a major push to get their issue on the 2015 or 2016 statewide ballot,” read a recent report via the Buckeye State-based 10TV.

Nevada, too, is likely to have a legalization measure on the ballot in 2016. “If it makes the 2016 ballot it is likely to be approved,” read a post in the liberal blog FireDogLake celebrating this measure’s likely effect on the election for Democratic candidates. “A Retail Association of Nevada poll from October found 54 percent of Nevada voters favor legalizing the sale of marijuana for recreational use.”

Maine, Massachusetts, California, and Arizona are just some of the states which may have legalization measures on their ballot in 2016. There is no doubt that list will grow in the coming months.

Beyond Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), whose libertarian outlook on social policy informs his agnosticism on legalized marijuana, Republicans are rightly seen as the party opposed to legal weed. Even Chris Christie, a Republican who has long advocated for the reformation of the nation’s drug laws, recently scolded Colorado for passing a legalization measure.

The polls indicate that the GOP is behind the 8-ball when it comes to shifting public opinion trends on the issue of marijuana, and voters recognize that. In tight, contested elections like 2016, a narrow group of marginal, irregular voters decided that contest.

It is perfectly possible that some anonymous college student in his early 20s who had never voted before in his life will turn out in 2016 only to cast a ballot in favor of legalizing marijuana. In the process, his vote will be one of a handful which decides the presidential election.


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Curiously, Oregon’s lack of sales tax hasn’t lead to widespread social collapse in Washington.

Jedditelol on July 27, 2014 at 9:49 PM

Neither has gay marriage in Washington destroyed the institution of marriage in Idaho. But tomorrow’s another day — so toke up, I guess. If you’re into that. (I’m not.)

Jedditelol on July 27, 2014 at 9:50 PM

I’m not defending you should pay for a stoner’s house and food. Or for an alcoholic house and food. Or for an obese coronary surgery. Clear enough? Good.

Now that we sorted this out, are you also in favor of compulsory physical exercise and letting the government design individual diets for each citizen? Are you going to keep cowardly refusing to answer the question? Or will you have the moral and intellectual integrity to answer it?

joana on July 27, 2014 at 5:01 PM

In another post above you claimed that I could not make two arguments at once, but you being a superior person could.

What exactly do you think happens to the number of voters in favor of a welfare state when you add more invalids and stoners to the voting pool? If you said the number of votes supporting the welfare state increases, you are actually able to think beyond a simple idea. If you then look and see that legalizing all these drugs would in turn lock in the welfare state and actually cause it to be expanded you are really getting the idea. Now if you move on further and conclude that a vote for drug legalization is in fact a vote for the continuation and even expansion of the welfare state you can actually claim to be a pretty smart person. You see, when you do things that empower your enemy, you are not actually helping your side. Generally we consider these people traitors. In your case I do not think you ever were on my side. The actual side of freedom.

If on the other hand, you argue that since it is popular now, we should legalize drugs and then later one, when all these druggies burn out and zone out we will totally be able to turn back the welfare state that just gained several million new voters, you are a freaking imbecile.

This is like the Republican argument that legalizing 18 million current illegal aliens will be a benefit to conservatism. Adding tens of millions net new Democrat voters is not in fact a conservative action. It never was, it never will be.

astonerii on July 27, 2014 at 10:17 PM

Welfare state, apparently in your world all pot smokers are on welfare, druggies, zone out, all wrapped up into a bizarre welfare obsession, false analogy between de-criminalizing a freaking weed and dereliction of duty regarding a fundamental function of government, protection of borders. Hyperbole much? You silly silly ridiculous person. Your reefer madness is comical were it not so tragically wildly misinformed.

Republican would do better to support freedom and liberty even when it offends their delicate puritanical senses. But I expect them to stay stupid and completely stoned out of their minds on their own legal drugs.

bour3 on July 27, 2014 at 10:55 PM

God help us

Jack_Burton on July 27, 2014 at 11:01 PM

If Obama promised to legalize pot I would have voted for him.

The drug war is an utter failure and pot is less harmful and addictive than both cigs and alcohol.

As conservatives we should have faith in people to do what is best for them. We certainly shouldn’t rely on the government to know what’s best for us.

mazer9 on July 27, 2014 at 11:18 PM

Welfare state, apparently in your world all pot smokers are on welfare, druggies, zone out, all wrapped up into a bizarre welfare obsession, false analogy between de-criminalizing a freaking weed and dereliction of duty regarding a fundamental function of government, protection of borders. Hyperbole much? You silly silly ridiculous person. Your reefer madness is comical were it not so tragically wildly misinformed.

Republican would do better to support freedom and liberty even when it offends their delicate puritanical senses. But I expect them to stay stupid and completely stoned out of their minds on their own legal drugs.

bour3 on July 27, 2014 at 10:55 PM

I know plenty of conservatives who get high. I am one of them. I’ve been to plenty of GOP-sponsored events where the booze flowed freely. Not sure why POT is shunned. At one point in our history alcohol was deemed socially unacceptable. What happened?

mazer9 on July 27, 2014 at 11:20 PM

Potheads are fat annoying sloths with no self control and nothing intelligent to say. Of course they are going to vote Democrat.

V7_Sport on July 28, 2014 at 12:22 AM

Can Marijuana save Democrats

Only in the sense that they’ll need to smoke it for pain relief after the midterms.
Lol.

anotherJoe on July 28, 2014 at 1:21 AM

That said, it is NOT the purpose of government to tell us how to live, nor to legislate us into criminals, nor to impose the ideology of some on others/everyone.

Clearly you reject the principles of government laid down by the Founders.

In your mind, government is nothing more than then indulgent parent that allows the child to do whatever the child wants to do – without even a hint of disapproval.

If you read the quote from Madison I posted earlier, you would see that We The People get to define our community standards and mores.

If you don’t like what laws and codes of behavior your neighbor has voted to implement, you can either move or wear the stocks in the town square while you protest your Hell given rights to do whatever you want while sampling local produce and rocks heaved in your direction.

Reuben Hick on July 27, 2014 at 7:38 PM

No Clueless…

(A/the legitimate) “government” doesn’t allow us to do anything… government doesn’t allow anything… government doesn’t have any authority to allow anything.

It is we the people who allow government to protect our rights, with limited authority, derived from the consent of the governed. WE THE PEOPLE are the ones who do the “allowing”; the government can only prohibit legitimate instances of peoples’ rights being violated… of CRIMES.

“My neighbor(s)” have no legitimate right to “implement laws and codes of behavior” that infringe upon my/your/anyone’s right to preserve and enjoy their lives as they see fit (PROVIDED that they aren’t violating the Golden Rule, and committing crimes -by infringing upon others rights to preserve and enjoy THEIR lives).

You, sir or ma’am (as the case may be) are monumentally clueless.

Wing Chun Man on July 28, 2014 at 1:45 AM

And another thing…

you’re full of crap.

“We the people” DO NOT “get to define our community standards and mores.” This notion is COMPLETELY AND FUNDAMENTALLY inconsistent with the American theory/system of government.

Both you and I (and everyone) can determine these things for them/our selves… but once anyone presumes to impose their will upon others who have not committed any crime upon them (or others) then THEY have committed a crime.

It’s not rocket science.

THINK. REASON. Please.

Wing Chun Man on July 28, 2014 at 1:49 AM

Whether you realize it or not, what you’re saying is, “if you don’t agree to submit to the will of those who presume to impose their will upon you (which is in fact a fundamental crime), then go elsewhere.”

News flash. NO ONE has any right to tell me (nor anyone else) how to live my life; and anyone who does is both wrong and a criminal. I have no obligation to obey such an individual (or individuals). To the contrary, I have every right to respond to their crime against me.

IF and only if I’m committing a crime does anyone have a right to restrict my actions (and likewise the other way round).

Again, it’s not rocket science.

THINK. REASON. Please.

Wing Chun Man on July 28, 2014 at 1:54 AM

I think pot is among the least of our worries right now.

Dr. ZhivBlago on July 28, 2014 at 2:54 AM

I think pot is among the least of our worries right now.

Dr. ZhivBlago on July 28, 2014 at 2:54 AM

In and of itself, I would agree with you. Far more dangerous are the epidemics of legalized infanticide and demented perverts taking axes to marriage…at least in the immediate future.

But when you look at it from a special-interest-group standpoint the the strategy is frighteningly simple: take another bunch of single-issue simpletons with the entitled mentality of a spoiled toddler and give them what they want in exchange for votes. The Democrats are masters at this trade.

Imagine them securing another several million people and giving them the legal ability to reduce their IQ to that of a doorknob with their ditch weed. They’ll not only be heroes to the new voting bloc but their new slaves will literally be too stupid to vote against them. Say goodbye to another not-insignificant percentage of the people who actually bother to show up on voting day.

LawfulGood on July 28, 2014 at 3:46 AM

Do let us Coloradoans (and Washingtonians) when the society collapse you envision occurs. I daresay it will come as a great surprise to us.

Jedditelol on July 27, 2014 at 9:48 PM

That is the problem – the collapse is already occurring but Progs and Libertarians are too thick and self-absorbed to see it.

I’m guessing that you envision a “collapse” as you going to bed one night to wake up to a Hollywood Dystopian set where zombies are eating each other and the sun is forever obliterated by continuous overcast skies.

Collapses rarely happen that way, rather the society gets courser and courser each day, inch by inch.

IOW, you fall for the frog in boiling water ruse.

We are talking about a societal collapse where one generation rejects the traditions, values, ethics and protocols of the previous one resulting in a less civilized version.

You all predict it by pointing to the generation that is buried with college degrees and debt yet don’t have any idea on how to take care of themselves but apparently have the mental clarity and wisdom to say that life will be improved by getting high without worrying about the Man.

Progs and Libertarians are dedicated to corrupting the next generation, not preparing them for a competitive and challenging world. Getting high doesn’t create personal wealth or build a better future, or whatever lofty rhetoric has replaced positive action.

Glenn Beck predicted that “by the end of the year you won’t recognize your nation any longer”. That was a rather bold and arguably hyperbolic statement, yet for many people, that is true.

Unfortunately for Progs and Libertarians that will never be true because society will never reach a level of barbarism that is disturbing to that crowd – or as you might say “collapsed”.

Reuben Hick on July 28, 2014 at 7:23 AM

You are an idiot if you think the party that has come as close as possible to criminalizing tobacco, forcing tasteless “healthy” meals on schoolchildren, and banning large sodas – is going to keep pot legal.

The left knows how to play the so-called “libertarians”, like a fine violin.

Rebar on July 28, 2014 at 8:12 AM

“We the people” DO NOT “get to define our community standards and mores.” This notion is COMPLETELY AND FUNDAMENTALLY inconsistent with the American theory/system of government.

Wing Chun Man on July 28, 2014 at 1:49 AM

Except that federalism says others, you know, the same federalism that pot advocates always talk about.

nobar on July 28, 2014 at 9:00 AM

It will not be very long until those who are rushing pell mell to legalize pot will be rushing to regulate pot. It is habit forming, carcinogenic, will cause even more traffic accidents, causes COPD, and may have long term detrimental effects (pot heads). The tipping point will be when pot inevitably becomes the province of big business. Then watch people fall over all themselves to attack, regulate, and tax it.

That said in the war between Hollywood and the DEA, Hollywood won.

Viator on July 28, 2014 at 9:21 AM

Welfare state, apparently in your world all pot smokers are on welfare, druggies, zone out, all wrapped up into a bizarre welfare obsession, false analogy between de-criminalizing a freaking weed and dereliction of duty regarding a fundamental function of government, protection of borders. Hyperbole much? You silly silly ridiculous person. Your reefer madness is comical were it not so tragically wildly misinformed.

Republican would do better to support freedom and liberty even when it offends their delicate puritanical senses. But I expect them to stay stupid and completely stoned out of their minds on their own legal drugs.

bour3 on July 27, 2014 at 10:55 PM

Obviously not all druggies are on welfare. But drugs do cause a dramatic increase in the likelihood any individual will end up on welfare. Talking about hyperbole, have you seen your comment or did it just come out like vomit?

You are right, Republicans would do better to support freedom and liberty. Unfortunately, legalized drugs is not freedom since the welfare state does not allow the bad decisions of an individual to be borne on that individual’s shoulders, but transfers those burdens to me, a disabled wartime combat veteran who works full time and pays net positive taxes.

I would love if the Republicans would support freedom, and the ONLY logical first step in promoting freedom is the dismantling of the welfare state. If I am not able to retain the fruits of my labor because I am forced to subsidize the lifestyles of degenerate losers against my will, I am not free, and making life easier to become a degenerate loser who can tap my wallet is not an increase in liberty or freedom.

astonerii on July 28, 2014 at 9:44 AM

You are an idiot if you think the party that has come as close as possible to criminalizing tobacco, forcing tasteless “healthy” meals on schoolchildren, and banning large sodas – is going to keep pot legal.

The left knows how to play the so-called “libertarians”, like a fine violin.

Rebar on July 28, 2014 at 8:12 AM

Pot at this point in time is an added entertainment to keep the masses mollified. The Democrats will keep it legal, but will regulate and tax the hell out of it.

astonerii on July 28, 2014 at 9:47 AM

When a drug is illegal, it is not brought out in plain sight, into polite society, it is hidden in the closet.

That is good.

Children don’t see or get exposed, or see adults approving.

It is fine with me if it is in the closet. I don’t want to see it, smell it or hear about anyone’s problems with pot. I don’t want to hear of young women exposed during pregnancy to this harmful drug.

I don’t want welfare money used to buy this drug, via EBT cash.

I don’t want people getting killed by intoxicated drivers using this drug.

You decide how you keep Pot under control, I say you can’t do it.

Fleuries on July 28, 2014 at 11:51 AM

we never just “fix” things anymore … i guess what we need now is “war on drugs REFORM”.

but seriously … just regulate cannabis like alcohol.

WaldoTJ on July 28, 2014 at 11:53 AM

We are talking about a societal collapse where one generation rejects the traditions, values, ethics and protocols of the previous one resulting in a less civilized version.

Reuben Hick on July 28, 2014 at 7:23 AM

Also we should get off your lawn.

Lighten up, Francis.

Tlaloc on July 28, 2014 at 2:29 PM

(A/the legitimate) “government” doesn’t allow us to do anything… government doesn’t allow anything… government doesn’t have any authority to allow anything.

Apparently you are living in a fantasy world and can’t discern reality from what hallucinations you are currently experiencing. There is no place now, and there has never been any place that even comes close to what you are describing.

It is we the people who allow government to protect our rights, with limited authority, derived from the consent of the governed. WE THE PEOPLE are the ones who do the “allowing”; the government can only prohibit legitimate instances of peoples’ rights being violated… of CRIMES.

While that is fundamentally the ideal, the practice is very much different. What you fail to recognize is that human nature does not operate in perfect alignment with your value system. I doubt that you are even consistent with your value system. There has forever been the ebb and flow of political power to implement structure to advance one value system over another.

The problem here is that you refuse to recognize reality, prefer to operate as if the world is modeled as your personal train-set, and then get upset and start whining when reality shows how off base your ideas really are.

“My neighbor(s)” have no legitimate right to “implement laws and codes of behavior” that infringe upon my/your/anyone’s right to preserve and enjoy their lives as they see fit (PROVIDED that they aren’t violating the Golden Rule, and committing crimes -by infringing upon others rights to preserve and enjoy THEIR lives).

This is a classic example of a two-year old temper tantrum because you can’t eat the whole bag of cookies before dinner, and now your mom is going to implement some discipline and you refuse to acknowledge authority.

The mere fact that we are dealing with some fool who doesn’t even know that drugs are dangerous despite the mountains of historical evidence demonstrates that you are incapable of successfully navigating about through civilized society. You are flawed. Your thoughts and value systems are self-destructive. Which wouldn’t be a problem to the rest of us, except you insist on corrupting others around you to share the same sophistry.

Someone around here has to be the adult – you have self-selected yourself to require adult supervision for your own good.

You, sir or ma’am (as the case may be) are monumentally clueless.

Wing Chun Man on July 28, 2014 at 1:45 AM

Says the person who can’t tell reality from his own hallucinations.

I suppose you will come back later and say smacking your head with a ballpean hammer is your “right”, and will call people “clueless” because they challenge your stupid ideas and advocate supervision before you hurt yourself and others.

Reuben Hick on July 28, 2014 at 10:23 PM

Finally, somebody making some sense around here. Of course the Republicans should end their hypocritical “limited government” support for prohibition of marijuana. That would be a solid start on redeeming the party in the eyes of the vast majority of people under the age of 65 who understand how idiotic this particular big government fool’s errand really is. I happen to live in a city (Los Angeles) where pot has been functionally legal for the past ten years or so, there are literally hundreds of pot shops all over the city, and all it takes is a $40 “doctor’s note” obtainable in 15 minutes from any of one of dozens of “doctors” to gain entrance. You know what’s happened? Nothing. The number of people who do or don’t smoke pot because it’s illegal is negligible. If you don’t smoke pot, ask yourself whether you would if it was legal. 99 times out of 100, you won’t be any more inclined to smoke it after it’s legal than before. Same with nearly everyone else. So just end this idiotic futile attempt to stamp out a common weed and move on to the next topic. Believe me, once all the hoopla dies down you won’t even know the difference.

Progressive Heretic on July 29, 2014 at 12:19 AM

…With the exception that neither salt nor sugar disrupt cognitive functions such as perception, value judgments, and decision-making, nor do they impair motor skills.

It’s funny how libertarians proclaim to love liberty, and to show their fervent dedication to that concept, they advocate the legalization of a substance that when consumed inhibits free will.

Stoic Patriot on July 27, 2014 at 2:41 PM

I love it when people who probably never smoked pot claim to know exactly how it will affect people. I don’t believe that pot smoking disrupts perception or impairs motor skills at all. If anything it makes you more coordinated. When I was 15 I used to smoke large amounts of pot and play video games for hours where I would achieve record scores with precision. When I turned 16 I took my drivers license tests, both the written and driving, totally stoned and passed with flying colors. I had no problem driving stoned for years after that and never once got in an accident. I played sports better stoned and not just me, even professional sports stars have been known to smoke it and these are people who are paid to be coordinated. It doesn’t cause slurred speech or impair motor skills, sorry, that is just a myth.

Dollayo on July 29, 2014 at 5:14 AM

I personally know a number of strong conservatives who will be very energized to go to the polls to vote for legalization, if it ever actually makes the ballot here in Missouri.

quikstrike98 on July 29, 2014 at 5:46 AM

Dollayo, I infer from your comment that it is acceptable to you for teenagers to use marijuana, so I am curious if you tell any teens in your life that they should not hesitate to use it?

jrd on July 29, 2014 at 7:52 AM

I love it when people who probably never smoked pot claim to know exactly how it will affect people. I don’t believe that pot smoking disrupts perception or impairs motor skills at all. If anything it makes you more coordinated. When I was 15 I used to smoke large amounts of pot and play video games for hours where I would achieve record scores with precision. When I turned 16 I took my drivers license tests, both the written and driving, totally stoned and passed with flying colors. I had no problem driving stoned for years after that and never once got in an accident. I played sports better stoned and not just me, even professional sports stars have been known to smoke it and these are people who are paid to be coordinated. It doesn’t cause slurred speech or impair motor skills, sorry, that is just a myth.

Actually, some of us study psychoactive drugs for a living. You don’t have to be a scientist to know that some psychoactive drugs can make you think smarter/better/stronger than what you really are.

DevilishSoda on July 30, 2014 at 3:53 AM

Dollayo, I infer from your comment that it is acceptable to you for teenagers to use marijuana, so I am curious if you tell any teens in your life that they should not hesitate to use it?

jrd on July 29, 2014 at 7:52 AM

No, not at all, your inference is incorrect. Looking back, I would say it was a mistake, but not because it made me into a stumbling uncoordinated mess. It just never impaired my motor skills in any way, unless you consider a lack of motivation to achieve as an example of the loss of motor skills, I certainly don’t. The idea that it inhibits free will is also ludicrous. A lack of motivation to achieve things is not equal to a lack of free will to make choices. If you want to discourage teens from using it, I would suggest telling them the truth instead of making up lies about it because if they can’t believe what you say about it than they are unlikely to take your advice. In fact, I would say that they will be more apt to try it and find out the truth for themselves.

Dollayo on July 30, 2014 at 6:12 AM

Actually, some of us study psychoactive drugs for a living. You don’t have to be a scientist to know that some psychoactive drugs can make you think smarter/better/stronger than what you really are.

DevilishSoda on July 30, 2014 at 3:53 AM

I would be careful with your wording here. If someone can do something than, by definition, they have the ability to do it. I don’t believe anyone can be better than they are. I don’t study psychoactive drugs for a living, but if a certain stimulus can cause the mind to use new or different receptors that causes it to consider new or different possibilities to questions, or solutions that they didn’t previously, and is then able to apply these new considerations or possibilities successfully, than this stimulus could act as a positive tool toward realizing a persons full potential. However, I’m not claiming that marijuana or any other psychoactive drug does this.

Dollayo on July 30, 2014 at 6:59 AM

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