Cannabis remains a controversial issue in the United States. Starting with medical cannabis legalization in California in 1996 personal consumption is now legal in some form in 37 states. Considering this is an issue that emphases individual freedom, social justice, and economic prosperity, it could be something that has the potential to appeal to a majority of the political spectrum. In the 2022 midterm elections, that was not necessarily the case for five states.
Where Cannabis Won and Lost in the Midterms
Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota all voted on initiatives to legalize recreational cannabis. Of these five, Maryland and Missouri were the only two that voted in favor of legalization. The other three: Arkansas, North Dakota, and South Dakota, all permit cannabis use for medical purposes, but chose to maintain the status quo and voted against adopting recreational use. Of these five states, the only one that leans towards the Democrats is Maryland, with the other four having predominantly Republican oriented voters. It may have been the Republican tendency to emphasize traditional values in Arkansas or concerns about how it would affect families in both Dakotas that ultimately swung voters.
Building a Wedge Issue
Though Cannabis remains a controversial topic, it could turn into a wedge issue in the 2024 presidential election for either party. Democrats, desperate to attract young voters, may push for legalization as a way of wooing Millennials and Gen-Z who tend to see legalization as a social
justice issue. Republicans, who have successfully capitalized on wedge issues like abortion and gay marriage in the past, may seek a similar strategy but with a twist. Instead of highlighting the political nature of cannabis legalization, Republicans bill themselves as the economically
focused party. A pivot towards cannabis legalization from the conservative perspective would have to emphasis job creation and tax revenue.
1. State Medical Cannabis Laws. (n.d.). https://www.ncsl.org/research/
2. Maryland Question 4, Marijuana Legalization Amendment (2022). (n.d.). Ballotpedia. https://ballotpedia.org/
3. Missouri Amendment 3, Marijuana Legalization Initiative (2022). (n.d.). Ballotpedia. https://ballotpedia.org/
4. Arkansas Issue 4, Marijuana Legalization Initiative (2022). (n.d.). Ballotpedia. https://ballotpedia.org/