From CNN’s new documentary on marijuana, a hint of things to come — maybe — from a guy known for “self-medicating” in his youth. In fairness to him, what he says about being already on record in support of legalizing medical marijuana in certain circumstances is true. Watch the second clip below, from 2008, in which a subdued and possibly baked soon-to-be president says he has no issue with doctors prescribing the drug. What he worries about, he says, is less regulated proprietors dispensing the drug for phony “medical” reasons. Whether he was telling the truth about his reservations at the time or whether this was another artifact, a la opposing gay marriage, of him trying to fool swing voters into thinking he was a social conservative is unclear.
What’s more clear is that the political climate is much more favorable to him now on this issue than it used to be. At the end of the 2008 clip you’ll find O admitting flatly that he’s not going to spend much political capital as president on legalizing weed when he was more important matters, like ObamaCare and counterterrorism, to worry about. Seven years later, now firmly in the lame-duck phase of his presidency, he doesn’t need to worry about that anymore. On the contrary, a showy pander on marijuana next year could be just the thing Democrats need to goose young adults into turning out for Hillary. They already have bipartisan political cover from Rand Paul to move marijuana to Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act. Obama could support that bill and Hillary could back him up, with the caveat that she still opposes legalizing marijuana for recreational reasons. That might be enough to encourage twentysomething voters without spooking older voters, who likely don’t see Hillary as some socially liberal radical anyway.
Would the public tolerate a push on medical marijuana? CBS has a new poll out today on marijuana to coincide with 4/20.
Fifty-three percent support for legalization is an all-time high for a CBS poll and 45 percent among Republicans is the highest number I’ve seen (most polls lately put the GOP at around 40 percent), but that doesn’t mean Obama and Hillary will roll the dice on total legalization. The question for Democrats eyeing 2016 isn’t which way the polls tilt, it’s which side’s supporters are most likely to be motivated to vote on the issue. I remember several years ago watching gay-rights activists scratch their heads when a state referendum to legalize SSM would fail even though statewide polls showed majority support for the practice. Opponents were simply more motivated than proponents. Same could be true on legalizing weed, a dangerous play in a close election. But, per the second question, that same risk doesn’t apply to medical marijuana; not only is support overwhelming, Republicans are about as likely to support legalizing it as Democrats are. Hard to believe Obama and Clinton won’t make some sort of gesture towards that next year, especially with Hillary eager to show the left that she’s One Of Them.
Oh, one last fun fact from CBS: 58 percent say state governments should decide whether marijuana is legal in their state versus just 37 percent who say the federal government should. Among Republicans, that split is 70/27. Nobody tell Chris Christie — or Marco Rubio, for that matter. Exit quotation:
— CJ Ciaramella (@cjciaramella) April 20, 2015