When it comes to cannabis reform, it tends to be associated with liberal politics. It’s considered a movement of open mindedness, progress, and representation – which are qualities usually connected with left-leaning politics.
Over the years, the public consensus on weed has been moving in a positive direction. It's been reported that nearly 64 percent of people in the United States support legalization. Pew Research has also stated that 69 percent of Democrats (and 75 percent liberal independents) and 59 percent of independent conservatives are in favor.
Following suit, it might be surprising to discover that 51 percent of Republicans support marijuana legalization on the federal level, according to a recent poll by CNN. As more states are continuing to legalize marijuana – whether it's small steps to decriminalize the herb, sign up for medical registries and programs, or allow recreational use – public perception toward cannabis is changing, along with political support.
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Why Legalize? The Conservative View on Marijuana
For pro-legalization conservatives, they’re concerned with freedom and economic growth.
It's costly to fight cannabis and to criminalize it. And the potential for small businesses to thrive is there, especially if there are less restrictions on taxes and banking (a federal resource). The American Dream lies in wait for marijuana legalization, and some conservatives are very aware.
Some Republicans also appreciate the value of cannabis as a medical resource, especially after they've witnessed constituents or personal connections suffer or fall to the opioid crisis. Senator Ann Lee of Texas had a son paralyzed in an accident and weed helped his muscle spasms. She told Mother Jones in 2015, it changed her perception: "He looked at us and said, ‘Mom and Dad, marijuana is good for me.' I didn't want to hear that, because I had fallen for all the propaganda."
A popular conservative value, too, is going against big government. Too much federal involvement is considered a strike against the constitution. Shifting the nationwide legalization to state efforts is inherently a conservative value, though it might be lost on some within the party.
Conservative Arguments Against Legalization
While some theories are speculative, there are implied reasons behind why a conservative politician would not support the legalization of marijuana.
A big factor is morality. Many conservatives come from religious backgrounds, which often emphasizes a concrete difference between wrong and right. Cannabis is two-pronged: it may be considered immoral because a) it has a history of being illegal, and b) it produces psychoactive effects, which are inherently bad. In an online forum, one user said that, "anyone who uses marijuana becomes impaired. When someone is impaired, they are unable to contribute fully to their community and be a useful member of society." This answer comes down to the moral complications of being part of humanity, and that there are expectations for participants to be good, clean, and active members. Many people think that weed does not fit into those boxes.
Even if a politician does not agree with the moral implications of marijuana, they likely see it in their best interests to play it up if they have a large following of religious constituents. Especially in southern states, where Christianity plays a significant role in everything from education (abstinence-only programs) to government officials (the anti-gay actions of Kim Davis), it can be a big deal for conservative politicians to incorporate religious values, despite the constitution's very clear stance on separating the two.
Another big reason why conservatives might not support the legalization of marijuana is because of lobbyists and sources of funding. Big pharmaceutical companies, for example, give big donations to many politicians – conservative and liberal – and can sway votes with their deep pockets. It would be in the interests of big pharma for cannabis to stay illegal, since the plant is a holistic alternative to many medical drugs.
Who Supports Legalization?
There are many conservative politicians that support the legalization of marijuana, even as registered republicans.
Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who errs on the side of libertarianism, believes that states should not face federal interference if they wish to legalize marijuana. He has also co-sponsored the "Small Business Tax Equality Act," which would allow weed-based businesses to take normal tax deductions for their business.
Ann Lee, considered a leader among conservatives, is responsible for founding RAMP: Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition. The group's goals are to work within the GOP to both educate and connect with people responsible for change in the party – lawmakers, politicians, and grassroot organizations and activists.
A surprising supporter is Senator Orrin Hatch, from Utah – a notoriously deep red state. His latest pro-pot legislation is the Marijuana Effective Drug Study Act (MEDS ACT), which aims to expand medical marijuana research.
Cory Gardener, considered a moderate Republican in Colorado, has voiced his support for the MEDS ACT, and wants to allow marijuana businesses to fully profit, with typical tax deductions.
As a member of Congress, Don Young of Alaska has made a large impact on improving the conservative view on marijuana. Young, along with other bipartisan members of Congress, launched a program called the Congressional Cannabis Caucus. It's a forum meant for marijuana-related discussion, education, and collaboration for politicians to get on board for "a more rational approach to federal cannabis policy."
For a complete list of senators and congresspeople that support marijuana legalization, please refer to this list in the Washington Post.
The cannabis future, it seems, is looking bright. As the conservative view on marijuana continues to shift, more politicians are willing to work together on reform as a bipartisan issue.
Whether you're a die-hard liberal or a conservative supporting the legalization of marijuana, keep updated on news and current cannabis trends at Leafbuyer.com.