Wednesday, September 28, 2022
John Hudak has this interesting new piece over at Brookings discussing the continued failure of marijuana reform becoming a significant campaign issues in this year's congressional races. The piece is titled "Congressional candidates’ silence on cannabis reform," and is worth a full read. Here is how the piece starts and concludes:
Cannabis reform has grown in popularity with voters, activists, and state legislators; cannabis is now legal for medical use in 38 states and DC and for adult-use in 19 states and DC. Despite those advances in state level reforms and in the broader conversation nationwide, Congress has failed to pass a major piece of legislation addressing the issue, and many voters and activists wonder why.
One argument is that federal level officials — in the executive branch and in Congress — simply don’t care enough about the issue to address it. To consider this question, I included a coding about cannabis reform in Brookings Primaries Project in 2022. The Brookings Primaries Project examines the publicly stated views—via the websites and social media presence — of all candidates running in U.S. congressional primary races. We coded each candidate on a four-point scale: whether they supported legalization or decriminalization of cannabis, whether they supported medical legalization only, whether their position was complex or indecipherable, and whether they failed to mention the issue at all.
The results provide three general takeaways. First, primary candidates for Congress do not consider the issue important enough to elevate to be included on their website or on social media. Second, on average, candidates who do engage on the issue are at least not harmed by staking out a public position. Third, stark differences exist between Democratic primary candidates for Congress and Republican primary candidates for Congress....
It is clear that among all candidates, all Democrats, and all Republicans, taking no public position on cannabis was the most popular strategy during the 2022 congressional primaries. However, among candidates who chose to take a clear position on cannabis, Republicans were more likely to oppose legalization than support it, and the reverse is true for Democratic primary candidates who took a position on cannabis.
In sum, cannabis as a political issue has risen in importance over the past 25 years. As state legislatures and voters via referenda have enacted changes to cannabis laws, the issue has become more popular even in the halls of Congress. However, cannabis reform advocates’ frequent stupefaction at the lack of progress at the federal level bumps up against a stark reality. Most candidates for federal office do not see cannabis as an issue prominent enough to discuss, and deep partisan differences still remain among elected officials, even as support for cannabis in the general public has exploded in recent years. And the true motivator for a member of Congress to take or change a position — whether voters hold their feet to the fire over an issue — has not yet become a reality in the vast majority of Congressional races across the United States.