Every 4 years the news cycle is thoroughly dominated in the United States by the Presidential election. There is no escaping it; it’s like the Super Bowl and Olympics rolled into one never-ending assault of news, opinions, tidbits, gaffes and scandals.
This year’s match-up of Hillary Clinton (D) and Donald Trump (R) has drawn the focus of the world, for reasons that are well-known, so well-known that I don’t have to describe them; not that I could ever hope to cover them all in anything less than a book.
The two most hated U.S. Presidential candidates in recorded history are colliding in an age of instant and worldwide communication. Their every move and utterance is analyzed a million times within an hour after they move or utter something. They are locked in a battle over the most powerful job in the history of the world. Each is looking for an edge over the other and both have shown they are not afraid to change their position on an issue.
In the 2016 U.S. Presidential election there may be one issue above all others that can sway enough of the vote to make an actual difference: marijuana legalization.
On the surface it would seem that Hillary Clinton has more to gain from a pivot toward cannabis legalization. Polls show her hemorrhaging millennial support and even the efforts of millennial hero Bernie Sanders have not been enough to stem the flow. Hillary is losing support to Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, who has made legalization a pillar of his campaign.
From New York Magazine:
The cross-tabs of that last poll threw Clinton’s problem into sharp relief: When registered voters were forced to choose between the two major party candidates, the Democrat won 50 to 45 percent. But in a four-way race among likely voters — which is to say, those most motivated to turn out — Clinton lost five points on her chief opponent. One reason: 30 percent of likely voters under 45 turned to third-party candidates, with a full 24 percent backing Libertarian standard-bearer Gary Johnson.
Variations of that result have surfaced in a series of national and state polls. One nationwide Quinnipiac survey from mid-September found 44 percent of voters under 35 going third party, with Johnson winning nearly a third of the demographic. In 2012, Barack Obama won 60 percent of voters under 30; Quinnipiac found Clinton winning half that figure.
In other words, Hillary needs the youth vote to win. Many young people feel burned – no pun intended – by how the Democratic primaries played out. They don’t like Hillary and they don’t feel she represents them. With other options available – like Johnson or the Green Party’s Jill Stein – young voters are likely to leave Hillary hangin’ on Election Day.
So far, Hillary’s concession to the cannabis community has been to promise an effort to move it from Schedule I to Schedule II under the federal Controlled Substances Act, which would allow for more research but would also put the regulatory burden for medical marijuana under the purview of the FDA, which could lead to the end of whole plant medical cannabis and usher in an era of pills made from various cannabinoids extracted from the plant.
From Tom Angell at marijuana.com:
To be clear, no one is suggesting it’s necessary for alleged lifelong abstainer Clinton to suddenly take up cannabis consumption, but issuing a full-throated endorsement for the drug’s legalization would likely convince a not-insubstantial number of young people currently supporting ardently anti-prohibition Johnson or Stein to seriously consider checking the Democratic box on November 8.
Marijuana legalization enjoys substantial support among millennials and it enjoys majority support from the population at large.
So this begs the question: why lukewarm support from the Clinton campaign?
“I think it would help Sec. Clinton shore up support among young people, but I think that additional support would come at the expense of people who are thinking of voting third party, not people who are thinking of voting for Trump,” Robert Capecchi, Director of Federal Policies at the Marijuana Policy Project, told The Marijuana Times.
The voters most opposed to legalization are Republicans and older folks. Not exactly Hillary’s wheelhouse. She does, however, have Bernie Sanders’ insurgent primary campaign as a testament to the power of being able to rally younger voters, voters who are more likely to get out and sign wave for their candidate and spread their message on social media. It could be her decisive edge against Trump, so why does she hesitate?
Maybe Hillary is well aware of the deep pockets of those who oppose legalization. Or maybe she remembers fondly the day when her husband wrestled the “tough-on-crime” mantle from the Republicans in the mid-90s in his move to the center. Maybe Hillary feels that the center is where she needs to be to win.
But I would submit that marijuana legalization is the center and a move in that direction would go a long way in gaining millennial support for her campaign.
What does Donald Trump have to gain by moving toward marijuana legalization? As I said, maybe on the surface not a lot, but if you dig a little deeper you find a game changer that could result in winning; something Trump says he knows a lot about.
Sure, Trump would risk losing support from a GOP base that has gathered shakily around him. Many Republicans hate him in much the same way Sanders supporters hate Hillary.
“I’m not sure to what extent it would help Trump,” Robert Capecchi from MPP told us. “In fact, seems to me that Trump coming out as more supportive of legalization could actually hurt him by angering/alienating the Jeff Sessions and the Chris Christies who currently support him without bringing in enough new supporters to cancel that out.”
But Donald Trump is known for doing wild, seemingly self-destructive things. It secured him the GOP nomination when no one a year ago was giving him a chance. Trump has always shown that he shoots for the stars and is not afraid of failure. He revels in his image as a rebel and maverick even as he has secured his place among the establishment.
True, he has become more reigned-in as of late, but will that continue if Hillary surges ahead in the polls? Will he seek to reclaim his position as an outsider in one last ditch effort to win the ultimate prize?
If one thing can be said about Trump, it’s that you never know what he’s going to do. Could he undercut Hillary with the youth vote and steal away what she sees as rightfully hers? Could he move from his vague medical-marijuana-is-ok-but-recreational-may-or-may-not-have-some-problems stance?
I must admit, this is a lot of wishful thinking on my part. Our reality is that cannabis is barely a blip on the screen of this election year, and that’s a shame. Gary Johnson and Jill Stein do their best, but they are out-gunned at every level. No one plays the game like the D’s and R’s and no one plays the game like Hillary and Trump.
What we are left with is very little discussion about cannabis law reform at the national level. And when we do hear about it, it’s because of something like Chelsea Clinton’s confusion about people dying from marijuana.
So don’t expect a pivot from either candidate when it comes to cannabis. The truth is, they don’t even have to talk about it. They are focused on their talking points and we’ll all ride this circus train to its last stop on November 8th.
Major battles loom on the state level when it comes to cannabis and we will be following all the developments right here at The Marijuana Times.