06 October 2010

Stoking Stoner Support in 2012

This November, California voters are deciding to implement Proposition 19, which would legalize marijuana use in limited quantities and allow local municipalities to regulate and tax it. Some Democratic strategists are considering if campaigning for propositions modeled after California Proposition 19 would stoke their youth voter base in 2012.

When Democratic Pollster Anna Greenburg surveyed California voters on turnout for the mid-term elections, only 25% of Democrats seemed extremely interested in exercising their franchise. But when the pollster told them about the marijuana measure, Democrats’ enthusiasm jumped to 38% while Republican turnout remained level. California’s Proposition 19 has the backing of the California Service Employees International Union. If the “Free Cannabis Campaign” goes national, it would likely win financial backing of liberal philanthropist Peter Lewis. The hope is that Democratic candidates could ride off of the youthful exuberance to legalize the herb across the country. Dude, put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Aside from the public policy implications, there are a couple of problems with this strategy. Firstly, it is still a federal crime. While the Attorney General Eric Holder and Obama Administration vowed not to pursue Federal power against “Medical” Marijuana dispensaries, their commitment to lax enforcement of the law is not set in stone and could change with the political winds.

Secondly, even in liberal California few politicians on either side of the political fence have voiced support for the Legalization of Marijuana Proposition. In fact, even President Obama is on the record for opposing legalization. This would be quite a leap for a mainstream political party.

Thirdly, a cost-benefit analysis would show that the surge voters would only be 2 or 3%, which only makes a difference in a close race. But a more difficult to measure metric would be how many dedicated Democrat voters would be alienated by the full party backing of such legislation. While 61% of voters between 18 and 34 are inclined to legalize marijuana, but those over 65% oppose such a measure by 64%. Who is more reliable to show up to vote, seniors or stoners? Clearly the blue haired bunch.

Thinking that there might be a slight uptick in stoner support for Democrat candidates presumes a static electorate. But a more difficult to measure metric would be how many dedicated Democrat voters would be alienated by the full party backing of such legislation. Thinking that is only a matter of time that progressive youthful attitudes will prevail is also fallacious as where you stand is where you sit. I doubt that the irrational exuberance of youth for going to pot strongly carries over to those raising families.

If the legalization of marijuana would garner so much of the youth vote then the Libertarians would be a major force on the American political scene instead of having microscopic support. I suspect that these Democrat strategists are just blowing smoke and thinking “Well, its 420 somewhere”.

Update 10/15  During a televised Townhall meeting slated to air on MTV,BET & CMT, President Obama was asked about how the Administration turns a blind eye to California flouting federal law on marijuana get there is a full court federal press against Arizona from ENFORCING federal law.  Instead of answering the direct question, Mr. Obama chose to share some pabulum tauting amnesty lite. 

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