A lot can change in American politics, but the current frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, Joe Biden, has a relatively commanding lead over his rivals. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigeg, Beto O’Rourke and Cory Booker, haven’t been able to dent the former vice president’s support, but we’ll see how things start to shake-up after the first debates later this month. Biden will be pressed by his competitors on a whole host of issues as his “centrist” positions are severely criticized by his more progressive challengers. Cannabis legalization and the Drug War in general will certainly be a line of attack as Biden’s history of championing prohibition and the 1994 Crime Bill is certainly out-of-step with Democratic voters supporting legalization and sensible criminal justice reforms with strong supermajorities.
With Donald Trump stating support for medical cannabis, states’ rights to full legalization, and signing a criminal justice reform bill, would Biden’s history and current cannabis policy be a key to four more years in the White House if he faces Barack Obama’s former VP? Longtime legalization advocate Kris Krane, a previous speaker at the International Cannabis Business Conference, believes so, as he writes in Forbes:
If Biden wins his party’s nomination, his out-of-date position on cannabis could be more harmful in the general election. Last year, I detailed the political case for President Trump to support marijuana policy reform in advance of the 2020 election. Doing so would be a way to gain support among younger voters, particularly those who may turn out to support likely legalization ballot initiatives in swing states like Arizona, Ohio, and Florida, or who support their legalization laws in swing states like Colorado, Nevada, and Michigan.
Should President Trump run against a pro-legalization candidate, he would need to come out in favor of reform prior to the election in order to neutralize this as a winning political issue for the Democrats. But a Biden candidacy could provide President Trump with a golden opportunity to own this issue, and the political spoils that come with it. After all, a candidate like Joe Biden, who will be an octogenarian by the time he completes his first term in office, is not the most inspiring choice for these same young voters who overwhelmingly support bold reform measures for cannabis policy.
Should the party choose to nominate a Drug War dinosaur like Joe Biden, they may not only lose the opportunity to gain the political spoils of an increasingly popular issue—they may be handing control of the White House to Donald Trump for another four years.
Krane’s entire piece is certainly worth reading and is a cautionary tale for Democratic voters thinking of voting for Joe Biden due to his supposed electability. The 2020 Democratic election is likely to be close as incumbent presidents, even those with historically bad approval numbers as Trump, have inherent electoral advantages. In 2018, the Democrats rode a Blue Wave to a historic takeover of the United States House, powered in large part by an increase in youth turnout. With cannabis legalization supported by over 70% of young voters and a quarter of all Democrats stating that they would be more likely to vote for a candidate that supports legalization, a close presidential election could very well swing on cannabis.
To learn the latest on cannabis politics and business, the International Cannabis Business Conference is the event to attend. Join us at our next conference in Vancouver, Canada, this September 15th-16th. Get your early bird tickets by August 21st to save.