Poll: 64% of adults want federal government to defer to state marijuana laws; Update: So does Mitch Daniels

The obligatory follow-up to Friday’s post wondering why Obama would want to sic the DOJ on weed users in Washington and Colorado when both states just voted to legalize it. Per Gallup, most Americans are wondering that too. On the underlying legalization question:

My point on Friday was that the federalism angle gives the GOP a way of ingratiating itself with younger voters and minorities on this issue without backing full legalization. You don’t have to be pro-weed to be pro-democracy, a lesson borne out here by Gallup’s numbers. Adults are actually ever so slightly opposed to legalizing marijuana (48/50) but decisively in favor of leaving the matter to the states to decide (64/34). In fact, even among people who want weed banned, fully 43 percent say the feds shouldn’t meddle if a state decides to legalize it. That’s the opening for Republicans in trying to sell this to reluctant seniors. The party can remain officially anti-pot at the state level, but at the federal level, it’s hands off.

Just for funsies, compare the numbers on marijuana above to the numbers on gay marriage compiled by Gallup in a different poll taken last week:

Younger voters and Democrats generally are a bit more sold on SSM than they are on legalizing marijuana but you’ve got similar feelings on both issues among each group. The whole question for Republicans, obviously, is whether taking a federalist line on weed will win them more young votes than it’ll lose them old ones. Will huge numbers of seniors stay home in 2014 if the GOP adopts a “let the people decide” line on pot? I’m skeptical. Plus, given how dramatically the numbers have moved towards legalization in the past few years — it was 36/60 as recently as 2006 — prominent pols will feel increasingly safe in speaking out in favor and that itself will start to move votes among the public. (We’ve already seen this to some extent with rising support among black voters for SSM after Obama changed his mind.) Here’s one notable example from the new documentary “Breaking the Taboo.”

Update: A pitch-perfect pitch:

Anyways, I talked to Governor Mitch Daniels about this issue about a week ago at a Buckley event at Yale, and he had some interesting thoughts. “I hope that people will be consistent,” he told me, referring to conservatives who support states’ rights. “I believe that federalism is, first and foremost, a protection of liberty. And I would just hope that people who say they believe that would be consistent.”

He continued to say that regardless of his personal opinion on decriminalization, states should be able to make their own choices on the issue.

“Without endorsing what they [Colorado and Washington] did, I think they had, under our system, a right to do it,” he said. “A lot of the worst problems we’ve got in this country, and some of the worst divisions we have, came when the right of citizens in community and in polities, like their state, had those rights usurped by the federal government. And having disagreed with it when it happened on other occasions, I sure wouldn’t call for it here.”

Grandma’s not staying home on election day in indignation over that approach, is she?