November 3, 2020 saw a “green wave” across the US, where several states legalized recreational and/or medical marijuana. The states that legalized include:
- Arizona – legalized recreational cannabis
- Mississippi – legalized medical cannabis
- Montana – legalized recreational cannabis
- New Jersey – legalized recreational cannabis
- South Dakota – legalized both recreational and medical cannabis
Arizona, Montana and New Jersey allow for medical marijuana consultations to take place online via telehealth as well. Whether Mississippi and South Dakota will follow suit, we do not know yet. A total of 15 states have legalized recreational cannabis.
Did the Green Vote Push the Democrats Over the Edge?
Traditionally, cannabis has always been a bit of a grey area for the two main political parties. In some states, cannabis legalization is generally supported but not a big issue. In other states, showing support for any form of cannabis reform could cost votes. This year, however, cannabis legalization took on a new importance, as people see it inextricably linked with social and legal justice and the imprisonment of people from poor and minority communities.
Now, cannabis legalization may not be solely responsible for turning historically red areas blue, but there’s no doubt that it played a part of a bigger whole. With Democrats in general being more supportive of cannabis legalization compared to Republicans, it should come as no surprise that cannabis enthusiasts of any political stripe are more likely to vote Blue if there are no viable alternatives.
Now, while the green vote alone probably isn’t enough to turn the tide of the election, it is interesting to note that the following states turned blue this election, are becoming more blue, or have arguably turned “purple” – an equal mixture of Democrat and Republican:
- Pennsylvania – Red in 2016, Blue in 2020.
- Michigan – Red in 2016, Blue in 2020.
- Wisconsin – Red in 2016, Blue in 2020.
- Arizona – still Red, but an influx of Blue votes.
- Georgia – traditionally Red, turned Blue in 2020.
- Texas – a Purple state that has seen a Blue increase.
- Maine – a swing state that has been Blue for the past 4 Elections, and also recently legalized recreational sales recently.
- Florida – a swing state that generally leans Red and voted so in 2020, but saw a big upswing in votes for the Democrats.
- Ohio – since 1960, the President Ohio picks is the President the rest of the country picks. Not so in 2020, suggesting that Ohio is not the battleground it once was.
It doesn’t take a huge amount to recognize that many of the above states have seen dramatic shifts in their attitudes towards cannabis over the past few years, especially as more-and-more people are starting to see the benefits medical cannabis can have for those who are sick or injured. The economic benefits of legalizing cannabis are an important consideration, too, as states are cash-strapped due to the economic impact of COVID-19.
Could Being Anti-Cannabis Cost an Election Now?
Even though both the Democrats and Republicans have their fair share of cannabis skeptics or opposers, there is no doubt that attitudes towards the plant are changing on both the left- and right- wings. Both parties are starting to see cannabis prohibition as an assault on the right for American citizens to decide what they put in their bodies, and neither party can afford to see the negative social and economic impact keeping cannabis illegal has. Again, a party’s attitudes towards cannabis is likely not the top priority for most voters, but for some it could give a clue as to how libertarian or authoritarian a particular candidate is. This could certainly sway the vote of someone who is pro-civil liberties.
Follow the Money – Cannabis is Becoming Big Business
Another, simple reason why people US-wide are becoming more pro-cannabis is not necessarily to do with issues of personal libert and social justice, but the fact that cannabis is becoming a bigger and bigger business. Cynical as it may sound, seeing dollar signs can change the politics of a person quite quickly!
Will the Democrats Legalize Cannabis?
Many people are skeptical that the Democrats will go the whole hog and legalize cannabis on a federal level, and past records of some Democrats have been spotty when it comes to arrests and the legal system. A lot of work still needs to be done when it comes to establishing a proper regulatory framework, as well as repairing the damage cannabis prohibition has had on communities throughout the US. However, people are confident that the Democrats are more likely to keep a more “hands-off” approach to cannabis.
The Issues That Were Important
There are 6 big issues that took center stage this year, including:
- The COVID-19 pandemic and Trump’s response, which many are extremely critical of.
- The economy and job losses. This is always a big concern, but the COVID-19 pandemic has put a new light on this, as it’s not your typical recession.
- Protests against racial injustice and heavy-handed policing.
- Crime and the criminal justice system.
- Supreme Court appointments, which saw Amy Coney Barrett take the place of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
- The Electoral College, and what it will look like in the future, if it exists at all?
Cannabis is not necessarily a hot topic directly, but it indirectly has an impact on how we approach points 03) and 04) above, as well as point 02) when it comes to jobs.
Politics Has Arguably Become More Polarized in the US
Even though Biden won 290 electoral votes to Trump’s 214, in many states the margins were razor thin. Georgia, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin saw Biden win by a matter of extremely small percentages, and there is pretty much a 50:50 Red:Blue split state-to-state. Democrat supporters should certainly not rest on the laurels over the next few years, and realize that many voters are swing voters. Cannabis may be becoming a bipartisan issue, but on the whole the electorate is arguably more divided than ever. Let’s hope these divisions can be overcome over the coming years.