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Embracing Cannabis Can Help Candidates This November

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Popular support for cannabis legalization has increased dramatically in recent years, with a strong majority of voters favoring ending prohibition for all adults while a supermajority endorses medical use. With several key states voting on marijuana measures this November, Democrats seem to have an edge on the issue.

As Politico has recently reported Democratic Senator Bill Nelson is standing up for the will of Floridians who voted for medical cannabis with over 70% of the vote, while his Republican challenger, Governor Bill Nelson, is currently leading the charge to prevent any Sunshine State patient from legally smoking medical cannabis:

“I support, and have with my vote, medical marijuana recommended by a physician”—perhaps should not have been so surprising. Less than a week earlier, a judge ruled the state’s ban on smokable medical marijuana was unconstitutional. Governor Rick Scott, who is running to unseat Nelson in November, quickly appealed the judge’s ruling, placing him on the opposite side of 6.5 million Florida voters, 1.9 million more than had voted for President Donald Trump. Even Republicans in Florida saw the potential advantage that this could give Nelson.

Marijuana legalization is on the ballot in North Dakota, where both U.S. Senate candidates have staked out a sensible states’ rights position, but only the Democrat, incumbent Heidi Heitkamp would talk about the issue with Politico, while her GOP challenger turned down two requests to discuss cannabis policy. In my birth state of Missouri, while Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill has just recently “evolved” on cannabis, she has stated her support for medical marijuana, which will appear on the Show-me State’s ballot this November, while her Republican challenger, Attorney General Josh Hawley (born two years after me in our shared hometown of Lexington, although I didn’t really know him since he attended private school at Rockhurst in Kansas City, while I was a public school kid), has maintained radio silence on an important proposal before his constituents this November:

McCaskill has indeed stuck her toe in the water, but maybe just a toe. When I asked for her current position on marijuana, her campaign referred me to her two-sentence comment in January: “I support medical marijuana in Missouri. I think it’s the right way to go,” she said on KMOV, the St. Louis CBS television affiliate. Her opponent, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, has mentioned marijuana even less than she has. His campaign did not respond to two requests for comment.

In Nevada, Democratic challenger Jacky Rosen supports legalization, and is happy to criticize Republican Senator Dean Heller for opposing legal marijuana refusing to represent the will of his constituents, who ended prohibition with over 54% of the vote:

“Senator Heller’s record has put him on the wrong side of this issue,” a Rosen campaign spokesperson told me. “From his vote to confirm Jeff Sessions as attorney general to his refusal to take action protecting Nevada’s marijuana industry from the threat of federal intervention, it’s clear that Senator Heller puts his loyalty to Washington Republicans ahead of what’s best for Nevada workers and business owners. While Jacky Rosen is fighting for bipartisan bills to protect our marijuana industry and defend the will of Nevada voters, Senator Heller has been cowering in silence on the sidelines.”

Politicians, especially Democrats like Earl Blumenauer (a frequent speaker at events like the International Cannabis Business Conference), Jeff Merkley, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Bernie Sanders have realized the political capital supporting sensible cannabis reforms can bring. Republicans have been much slower to embrace the issue, aside from longtime supporter Dana Rohrabacher, another frequent ICBC speaker, who might just be able to survive the predicted Blue Wave this November thanks partly to his principled stance on the Drug War.

Even Donald Trump has signaled that he’s a supporter of states’ rights on marijuana, and he certainly hasn’t suffered any backlash from his Republican base, so it makes you wonder why so many GOP politicians are scared to get on the right side of the people and history on the issue. After this November, if cannabis legalization supporters prevail at the midterms, the Blue Wave will likely be followed by a Green Wave of more politicians realizing that the time to end prohibition is now.

Learn the latest about cannabis business and politics, including how we can continue to elect legalization-supporting candidates this November and beyond, at the International Cannabis Business Conference in Portland, Oregon, this September 27th-28th. Don’t miss this opportunity to hear crucial information and network with top entrepreneurs, investors, and advocates from around the world. Get your tickets by September 12th to save $200!

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bill Nelson, Claire McCaskill, Jacky Rosen, Jeff Merkley