Can Democrats Win Midterm Elections With Help From Marijuana Reform?

President Joe Biden’s Thursday announcement of federal pardons for thousands of people convicted of simple possession of marijuana will please Democratic voters, but it will likely offer only small benefits in an upcoming dominated midterm election. by concerns about inflation, abortion and other pressing issues, said Democratic strategists and policy experts.

However, in concert with other presidential actions, it could build support leading into the 2024 campaign, they said.

Strategists, who credited Biden with keeping a political promise and acting for the right reasons, saw little political downside for Democrats, pointing to growing public support for easing marijuana penalties. .

The president’s proclamation, which also called for reconsidering the classification of marijuana as a dangerous drug, should help build support among specific constituencies, including young people and voters of color, strategists said. The president mentioned the disparate impact of marijuana laws, that blacks and browns are arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at higher rates than whites, even though rates of marijuana use are similar.

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NAACP Chairman Derrick Johnson hailed the President’s Marijuana Initiative as a way to help correct unequal racial treatment in the justice system, stressing the importance of voting for Biden in 2020.

“Today marks another important step in the fight against systemic racism within the criminal justice system,” Johnson said in a statement. “Our collective vote in 2020 translates into real progress. Vote, vote, vote. We can continue to make a difference.

Democratic strategist Antjuan Seawright said Biden’s action was the latest promise kept to black voters, “the heart and soul of the Democratic Party” that was instrumental in his victories in the 2020 primaries and general election. .

“This president was very intentional and worked to ensure that communities that have been left behind, left behind for a very long time, finally get what John Lewis often told me: ‘Oceans of justice and rivers of equity”. ” he said.

Marijuana reform could spur some supporters to get out and vote when they might otherwise have stayed home, Seawright said.

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It could also be an important factor for younger voters, who tend to vote less often than older people, especially in non-presidential years.

Marijuana legalization is “especially popular with young voters across the country and in Colorado,” one of the first two states to vote to legalize recreational marijuana use, said Chris Griswold, director of Denver-based Hilltop Public Solutions, which consults with Democratic campaigns. and on various Democrat-aligned priorities, such as climate issues. “It ultimately has the effect of helping to entice younger voters to turn out in November.”

Biden’s decision could help Democrats in some states, like Pennsylvania, a swing state with tight races where legalizing marijuana is an ongoing debate, said Mindy Romero, director of the Center for Inclusive Democracy at the University of Southern California. A potential downside, she added, is that Republicans could use the president’s initiative to bolster their argument that Democrats are soft on crime.

“Anything that can be used for political purposes will be done by both sides, and I think Republicans will definitely use that in their campaigns,” she said.

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A number of states have legalized the recreational use of marijuana.  President Joe Biden announced Thursday that he would pardon those convicted of simple possession of marijuana at the federal level.

The November election is so close that Biden’s marijuana announcement may not have such a big effect now, but it could play a role in the 2024 campaign, she said.

“Presidential elections are higher. They are more diverse. There is a long track” until 2024, she said. “If this was the start of a series of administration actions that could generate support for the 2024 presidential campaign – and for other Democrats as well – then perhaps we should consider this a long match.”

Mat Grodsky, a former Arizona Democratic Party spokesman and vice president of policy consultancy Matters of State Strategies, said marijuana reform will appeal to Democratic voters and likely independents, but is “highly unlikely to move the needle halfway through.” in Arizona, the swing state where he is based. Arizona voters approved the personal use of marijuana by adults in 2020.

“Given concerns about inflation, abortion and reproductive health care rights, the right to vote and what it will mean if these America First candidates take control in November, these are the dominant issues in people’s minds,” he said.

Grodsky saw immediate and very short-term benefit for the president. “All journalists ask about this and not about gas prices,” he said.

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