Cannabis smokers in nine states may be able to puff-puff-pass more freely after voters decide on medical and recreational marijuana measures on the ballot on Election Day. More than likely pot enthusiasts will be casting “yes” votes for all of the legalized marijuana initiatives come Tuesday, but which of the presidential candidates will stoners say “yes” to when it comes time to vote?
The race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump has been a close fight and pro-pot voters could help tip the scales. The latest nationwide IBD/TIPP Tracking poll showed Democratic nominee Clinton polling just one point ahead of Trump at 45 percent. Clinton is leading the pack in important swing states like Florida, which has a medical marijuana initiative on the ballot. Trump, meanwhile, is ahead in two major swing states voting for recreational marijuana use, Arizona and Nevada. In Arizona, the Republican nominee leads by five points while he’s ahead six points in Nevada.
However, Clinton is gaining popularity among young voters, a group that seems to be particularly in favor of marijuana legalization. With voters between 18 and 30 years old, Clinton is leading with 35 percent of young white voters to Trump’s 22 percent. About 49 percent of young black voters choose her over Trump, according to a GenForward poll ABC released Friday.
Jordan Hudson, an Arizona resident who plans to vote yes for Proposition 205, the state's recreational measure, said one of the reasons he plans to vote for Clinton on Election Day is because he believes she's the best candidate to push reform even further throughout the U.S. after the election. The 29-year-old property manager and former Denver marijuana grower, who has been using cannabis since 2006, is hopeful the proposition will pass in his state.
"Legalizing cannabis would help take marijuana out of the hands of the black market, which would inevitably make it harder for kids and teens to get access to marijuana," he said.
Both Clinton and Trump have been reluctant to advocate for marijuana reform. Trump has said that he supports medical use of the plant and that he knows people who have benefited from cannabis, while Clinton has said she’d follow President Barak Obama’s policy on pot laws by keeping legislation at the state level.
The marijuana initiatives on the ballots only represent a small fraction of the policies and procedures voters have to take into consideration when they choose the next U.S. president. However, Keith Stroup, founder of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, told International Business Times reform initiatives may still lead to more votes for Clinton and the Democratic party, mostly, in part, because of her promise to keep marijuana reform at the state level.
“In the past, Hillary Clinton hasn’t been a particularly strong advocate for marijuana laws. But as this campaign started to develop, first she acknowledged that she recognized we need to get marijuana off Schedule I of the federal controlled substances act. That’s a minimal step, but it’s a good first step. She then acknowledged that if she were to be elected president she would continue the Obama policy, which does not allow the federal government or the Department of Justice to interfere with states that wish to experiment with various models of marijuana legalization, and that really is crucial,” Stroup said.
Although Trump has also said he’d follow Obama’s marijuana policy, Stroup said Clinton is the most likely candidate to actually consider full legalization if she becomes president, because Clinton is “driven by data,” so the successes coming from states with legalized recreational use, like Washington’s 98 percent drop in arrests between 2012 and 2013 and Colorado’s $129 million marijuana tax revenue, could influence Clinton’s future outlook on cannabis policy.
“I expect that as president, assuming that she is elected, Hillary will begin to feel more comfortable as she learns more about the experiences we’ve had with legalization in Colorado and Washington. Those systems have been running for two years now, so we have a lot of real data to look at and examine, and it’s all very positive,” Stroup said.
The race to White House seems likely to be determined by younger voters, with millennials, America’s largest generation in 2015, accounting for 74 million people living in the U.S. and 56 percent of eligible voters. Of the millennial voters, 77 percent of Democrats and 63 percent of Republicans were in favor of legalizing marijuana, according to a Pew Research Center report.
Although 77 percent of all young adults 18 to 34 are in support of legalizing marijuana, according to the Gallup poll, a separate CBS poll conducted in April found that only 28 percent of young adults would be more likely to vote for a candidate in support of legal marijuana while seven percent said they’d be less inclined to vote for a candidate in support of legal marijuana. The poll found that 58 percent of people said that a candidate’s support of weed “wouldn’t matter” at all.
A recent Harvard University poll found that 49 percent of Americans 18 to 29 preferred Clinton over Trump and third-party contenders Gary Johnson and Jill Stein. But the University of Michigan’s 40-year long “Monitoring the Future” analysis found in recent years more millennials – 29 percent – favored the Republican party overall, and the numbers continued to increase when compared to Baby Boomers who identified as Republicans when they were of that age.
Morgan Fox, senior communications manager for the Marijuana Policy Project, a national advocacy group dedicated to changing state and federal marijuana laws, said the growing number of millennial conservatives means Trump can’t necessarily be counted out when it comes to marijuana supporter’s votes. After the election is over and exit polls are released, Fox said advocacy groups will have a better idea of voter motivation and how things can change for marijuana reform over the next four years.
“The bottom line is that we really don’t know yet, because we don’t know if the presence of marijuana initiatives on the ballots brings in people who normally wouldn’t vote, whether it brings more of one demographic than the other,” Fox said.
Roughly 70 percent of cannabis supporters identified as independents, a Gallup poll in October found. But Stroup said he isn’t encouraging marijuana advocates to vote for Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, or Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate. He said both Johnson and Stein have a better position on marijuana policy than the two major candidates, but neither could win the White House.
Johnson has been an outspoken advocate for legalizing full use of marijuana since 1999. The former New Mexico governor has spoken candidly about his own marijuana use, as well as how much safer and effective medical marijuana has proven to be in comparison to prescription drugs. He’s also proposed that legalizing cannabis will lead to less overall substance abuse. Stein, who’s called America’s War on Drugs a “very misguided and racist policy," said she’d remove cannabis from the DEA’s Schedule I substances act and make pot legal nationwide.
But Stroup said neither of them has a “realistic chance” of winning the election.
“We’re here to change laws. We’re not just in this to be purists. So even though I prefer the positions that Gary Johnson has and what the green party candidate Jill has, I would urge people not to vote for them, because I think voting for them takes away from keeping Donald Trump out of office,” he said. “And for most of us that would be indeed a disappointing outcome, if we were to wake up on Wednesday morning and learn that Donald Trump had been elected president.”