Today is 4/20, a day when everyone makes terrible jokes about marijuana and pretends to know things about drugs.
Looking at this recent CBS poll, it’s clear that marijuana legalization is more popular than ever before. More than half of Americans—61 percent, per the CBS poll—now think marijuana use should be legal:
There’s also much less stigma around marijuana use than in the days of Reefer Madness and DARE:
And, unsurprisingly, support for marijuana legalization is higher (no pun intended, heh heh) among younger people:
Hmm. I wonder if this issue could represent an opportunity for one of the national political parties to capitalize on growing popular support for the morally right side of a hot-button social issue, like same-sex marriage or abortion before it?
But, as Alex Pareene has correctly noted, today’s Republican leaders think they have a mandate with voters that doesn’t exist, while Democrats think their constituents are much more conservative than they actually are. For that reason and others, national Democrats have been slow to embrace the cause of marijuana legalization. I’m here to tell them that they are being stupid.
The political tide is clearly moving toward support, just as it once did with social issues like same-sex marriage. Yet it seems like some Democrats are wary of vocally supporting marijuana, probably because they don’t want to be tarred as unserious, the way legalization proponents have typically been treated by the political establishment in the past. They don’t seem to realize that in 2017 it’s possible to admit that you enjoy the occasional toke without fully Animorph-ing into Gary Johnson.
But supporting legalization isn’t just a way to pander to the all-important “college freshmen at Coachella” voting bloc. (This was always Barack Obama’s maddening response whenever he was asked about marijuana legalization—to dismiss the question with a joke based on the premise that only dopey college students cared about such a silly topic.) It would have huge ramifications on criminal justice reform, especially for black Americans, who are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white Americans are.
In many U.S. cities, that racial disparity is even higher:
Plus, even if Chris Christie doesn’t believe in them, marijuana’s medicinal uses are both obvious and in need of further scientific study—study which would be aided by ending the pointless drug war. At the very least, legalizing CBD-heavy strains of medical marijuana for cancer patients and kids with epilepsy should a slam-dunk policy position. And shouldn’t Democrats be shouting at every opportunity that states that have legalized medical marijuana have seen significant drops in opioid-related hospitalizations?
Even in the most cynical and purely political analysis, supporting marijuana legalization is a very easy way for Democrats to very quickly increase their appeal to a large bloc of voters they constantly complain about being unable to depend on. Still, somehow, older Democrats don’t seem to understand the real consequences of staying on the sidelines in the legalization debate. Instead of listening to what voters are passionate about and offering them positive, achievable proposals (see: weed), we get Tom Perez thinking he can cuss his way to a Democratic majority:
Democrats: Stop being freaking nerds and tack marijuana legalization onto your national platform, because honestly, what do you have to lose at this point—more state legislative seats? Do I really need to sit you down and explain to you that people—and especially young people—like marijuana, and will vote for candidates who support legalizing it? Have you spent so many hours looking at spreadsheets in windowless rooms that you’ve lost all touch with reality? When someone asks you to play checkers, is your preferred strategy to somberly say, “We’re better than this” and forfeit the game?
Legalizing marijuana would not only be the cool thing to do, but also the morally just thing to do. If you can’t wrap your mind around the idea that weed is cool as hell, and that people will vote for things that they think are cool, I truly cannot help you.