The attention President Donald Trump has received during his presidency, both good and bad, has been interesting, to say the least. But could his support of the federal legalization of marijuana affect his re-election?
Throughout his presidency, Trump hasn’t paid a lot of attention to marijuana legalization. Instead, his choice has been to turn a blind eye to the states legalizing cannabis during his time in office. Even as numerous states legalized the sale and consumption, both medically and recreationally in some places, Trump has chosen to ignore the changing economic environment. However, over the next few months, his silence regarding legalization could come to an end.
With the next election drawing nearer, many speculate that Trump is going to have to do something big to win over young voters. Since so many of these voters tend to lean towards the other side, the support of the legalization of marijuana is the perfect way to appeal to them — and win their votes, of course.
Recently, an investment firm, Piper Jaffray, held a company-wide conference to discuss cannabis policy. At this meeting, analysts touched upon how Trump will have to talk about cannabis legalization if he has any intention of securing his position as president of the United States. These same analysts also discussed that they think that the Trump administration will perform several acts of good faith leading up to federal legalization with a goal of cannabis becoming legal federally over the next two to five years.
As the meeting went on, analyst Michael Lavery was quoted as saying, “By supporting cannabis, Trump may be able to incrementally broaden his appeal with swing voters without alienating his base.” The fact of the matter is that with most of Trump’s Democratic opponents openly stating their favoring of federal legalization, he’s going to have to voice his own stance supporting legalization if he wants to earn young votes. Currently, the only Democratic opponent opposed to legalization is Joe Biden, meaning Trump’s support of abolishing cannabis prohibition once and for all could be an attack on the Democratic Party.
Last year, representative Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, one of the founding members of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, touched upon the fact that it’s possible for Trump to promote his re-election by pushing the cannabis issue. This is especially the case if the Democrats fail to make a strong, united pro-cannabis argument. Blumenauer created his “Blueprint for Federal Marijuana Legalization,” claiming, “If we fail to act swiftly, I fear as the 2020 election approaches, Donald Trump will claim credit for our work in an effort to shore up support — especially from young voters. Democrats must seize the moment.”
With this call to action, Democrats have a lot at stake here. If President Trump chooses to express his interest in legalizing the plant federally, this could spell some serious trouble for those interested in having a Democrat in office. If Congressional Democrats fail to act, it’s safe to say there could be a small window of opportunity that Trump could easily take advantage of if he chooses.
Even with the Democrats having and maintaining control over the U.S. House of Representatives for the last six months, there hasn’t been any progress regarding the issue of marijuana reform. While there have been some cannabis-related bills tossed about, along with some changes to the SAFE Act, no one can say the Democrats have been successful with promoting sweeping federal change relating to cannabis.
Although Mitch McConnel’s support of hemp legalization in the past ultimately bought about the legalization of industrial hemp production, he is notorious for viewing marijuana legalization in a negative manner. Even with this being the case, it’s likely he’d prefer to keep his seat in the Senate, and since supporting federal legalization has the potential to help him keep his position, it’s possible that he would change his political position in bid to maintain his office.
Last year, Forbes posted an article discussing how Trump was in the position to become a significant part of U.S. history by reversing marijuana prohibition. The article describes how the public overwhelmingly supports legalization, as well as how passing legalization could help Trump's re-election campaign in 2020.
President Trump has a record of siding with cannabis enthusiasts to some degree as well. Back in June of 2018, he claimed he’d likely support the STATES Act introduced by Sens. Cory Gardner and Elizabeth Warren. This act would exempt legal state-licensed cannabis businesses from the Controlled Substances Act, effectively mitigating these business owners’ fears of federal prosecution while resolving the banking and tax issues notorious in the industry.
Looking even further back, during his 2016 campaign, Trump was asked if his administration planned to crack down on the cannabis-centric businesses operating in compliance with state laws. He’s quoted as saying, “I wouldn’t do that, no … I think it should be up to the states, absolutely.” Even though Trump’s position regarding the issue of federal legalization has been known to shift, there’s still a chance he will see the political advantage that comes with supporting this industry and take action.
President Trump’s approval ratings have been rather low throughout his presidency, meaning he’ll need to discuss new issues as he braces for the 2020 election. The election will be close, so touching upon federal marijuana legalization in support of it could get this controversial president re-elected.
As Millennial voters in favor of legalization head to the voting booths this 2020, Trump has a chance of swaying their votes in support of his re-election. With so many important swing states having some type of legalization in effect and other states having thriving adult recreational use markets, Trump has an opportunity to gain the support of many voters by riding the green wave.