And yet, despite the clear bipartisan appeal of marijuana, it has only been approved for recreational use in eight states and Washington, D.C. Neither Democrat Hillary Clinton nor Republican Donald Trump came out in favor of recreational marijuana purchases during the 2016 election. Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has actually taken a harder-line stance on marijuana than recent administrations, including criticizing states that have made it legal.
Democrats and Republicans might be slow to fully support recreational marijuana because, despite it being broadly popular, supporters don’t feel all that strongly about it. Only 31 percent of Americans “strongly” favored legalization in a 2016 PRRI poll, despite 63 percent being in favor overall. My own 2014 study of marijuana ballot measures suggested they don’t raise young voter turnout, even though young voters were the most likely to favor legalization. Just 28 percent of Americans told Marist College in March 2017 that they would be likely to buy and use marijuana if the federal government legalized it. (Of course, some people may be unwilling to tell a pollster this.)