A stronger Republican intervention could accelerate a snowball effect on Capitol Hill, where Democrats are leading the charge for decriminalization but lack results. It could also reduce Democrats’ ability to use cannabis legalization to provoke progressives and younger voters as the midterm approaches.
“When culture becomes more accepting of something, even the most resistant groups squabble,” said Dan Judy, vice president of North Star Opinion Research, which focuses on Republican politics. “I don’t want to directly confuse marijuana legalization with something like gay marriage, but I think there is a similar dynamic at play.”
Earlier this year, the Republican-dominated North Dakota House of Representatives Marijuana legalization bill passed Introduced by two Republican lawmakers — the first adult legalization bill to pass in a Republican-dominated room. Mace’s bill marks the first time a Republican has proposed federal legislation to decriminalize cannabis, overturn some of its convictions and tax and regulate the industry.
As Republicans delve into the weed group chat, they’re bringing their own principles, constituents, and special interest groups. When Mace introduced her bill on a frozen day in the House Triangle, she was flanked on the podium not by the Drug Policy Alliance and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, but by veterans groups, medical marijuana parents, and lobbyists in the cannabis and cottage industry backed by Americans for Prosperity.
Many of the GOP’s proposals include lower taxes and a lower regulatory approach than bills led by Democrats, often preserving popular elements among most voters, such as erasing nonviolent cannabis convictions.
“I tried to be very thoughtful about what I put into the bill that would appeal to Democrats and Republicans,” Mays said in an interview Monday. That is why criminal justice reform is part of it. This is the reason for the lower production tax.”
Motives for bringing Republicans to the negotiating table are also changing.
Former cannabis advocates on Capitol Hill such as Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colo) and Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-California) have primarily advocated for state legalization programs, but Mace comes from South Carolina — a state where there is no medical or recreational drug program. She joins other Republican lawmakers pushing for federal policy to go beyond their states — among them Reps. Matt Gaetz and Brian Mast of Florida, where only medical marijuana is legal, and libertarian Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who doesn’t yet have a medical program.
“Every two years, you get a new batch of members from both parties, but certainly from the Republican Party, who don’t have to defend the drug war…and they don’t have to support it,” said a cannabis advocate and former Maryland Republican delegate Don Murphy. “They are free to vote for their conscience.”
However, deep divisions remain within the Republican Party. After Mace announced her bill, the South Carolina Republican Party was quick to condemn it — saying they were “unequivocally” against Mace’s bill. “Since this will have widespread negative impacts, from higher crime rates, violence and child mental health issues, I think it’s a safe bet to say that most Republicans will oppose it as well,” South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Drew McKissick said in a statement.
Six out of 10 younger GOP voters – what In a recent report, the Pew Center described it as a “paradoxical right.” He believes marijuana should be legal for medical and recreational use, but older, educated Republicans and Christian conservatives don’t feel the same way.
The Republican Party split reached its climax over the past year in South Dakota. Fifty-four percent of voters approved a ballot legalizing recreational marijuana last November in a state where only 27 percent of voters were registered Democrats. Despite voter support, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem – a rising Republican star – has backed a court challenge under the legalization procedure since its passage. But while the state awaits a court decision, efforts to legalize marijuana at the ballot box and in the legislature are moving forward in the meantime.
“[Support] “People voted for it,” said South Dakota Republican Representative Hugh Bartels, who led the subcommittee to study adult marijuana use over the summer.
Marijuana advocates are now preparing to institute legalization initiatives in the 2022 elections in deep red states like Missouri, Idaho and Wyoming. The fact that more Republican-leaning voters support marijuana reform It means lawmakers are increasingly distant from their constituents – a fact some in politics pursue.
“Now we’re in a race,” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.) said in an interview a week after the 2020 election. “If Republicans beat Democrats with legalizing marijuana, it’s just one or two of those kinds of social issues far from just eroding a lot of goodwill” that Democrats are trying to build with voters.
Republicans who support legalization view the issue in terms of states’ rights, personal liberty, job creation, and tax revenue. Many libertarian-leaning Republicans are early advocates of cannabis policy reform, arguing that arresting people for cannabis use is a violation of personal liberties.
Some Republicans also cite racial disparities in marijuana arrests as a reason for federal law reform—even though Democrats focus more strongly on criminal justice reform in general. And, as with Democrats, the shift is often generational: Young Texas Republicans They announced that they support the decriminalization of marijuana Back in 2015.
The shift within the Republican Party sometimes has less to do with lawmakers’ beliefs about marijuana than with how much the public has shifted about it. For example, the bill’s sponsors in North Dakota said they personally opposed marijuana, but introduced the bill anyway to avoid the possibility of a ballot initiative that would legalize marijuana through the constitution — especially after South Dakota voters approved legalization in 2020. .
“Not a true fan of marijuana,” Bartels said, but the draft legalization proposal “would get a good, solid offer from me” at the next session of the House of Representatives. He is satisfied with the way the bill addresses his main public safety and youth employment concerns. “It’s a regulatory bill, not an industry-leaning bill,” he said.
Jodi said the lack of motivation to fight cannabis legalization is also a major factor. White evangelicals and conservatives are big proponents against legalization, for example — but most don’t hand out pamphlets or go door-to-door to campaign against polling procedures.
“There is definitely a strong feeling in a lot of places that the train is leaving the station,” Judy said.
Marijuana reform is poised to make gains in red states now that many blue states have already legalized it. Advocates are trying to put in place initiatives to legalize adult use on the ballot for 2022 in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri. Supporters in Wyoming and Idaho collect signatures on medical marijuana and decriminalization measures after state lawmakers hunted down about the case.
There is a huge benefit to Republicans when and where they decide to go ahead with legalization: They can tax and regulate the industry in their own way.
In Washington, although Republicans have taken some big steps recently, they do not control either chamber of Congress. Democrats will likely continue to focus on moving Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s decriminalization bill, which contains a high tax rate and social justice grant programs that deter conservatives.
But Republicans are one step closer to reaching a compromise with Democrats on the issue — if Democrats are willing to negotiate. Leaders such as Steve Hawkins, president of the American Cannabis Council, hope that Mays’ bill will expand the support group.
“This is an issue where there are not a lot of partisan divides,” Jodi said. “In this day and age, finding any issues with bipartisan majority support is like finding a rhino.”