While there are so many topics for debate that divide us in this country, one that has perpetually made headlines over the last decade has been whether or not marijuana should be legal. Every state in America has their own stance of how marijuana should be handled, with some legalizing it for recreational purposes, some only for medical purposes, and several not having it legal in any form. So, what does marijuana have to do with Donald Trump? I’m glad you asked, but first I need to give you some facts about the drug to help us get there.
There are eleven states so far that have legal weed for recreational and medical purposes. Each state has their own laws and penalties for breaking them, but all of them handle it very seriously in the same way alcohol is handled. You must be 21 years old or over to purchase, cannot sell to minors, cannot drive a vehicle under the influence of marijuana, and you cannot have it out in public like you would a cigarette. It must be used privately in your own home or in a business that has a proper permit.
Legal for Recreational and Medical purposes:
*Becomes legal for recreational purposes on January 1st, 2020
Twenty states have legalized the plant for medical purposes but not for recreational purposes, arguing that they do see the benefit in marijuana as a pain reducer for patients who have recently had surgeries or chemotherapy, people with cataracts, victims of stress, anxiety, mood disorders and seizures, but do not yet find a benefit from legalizing it for casual and recreational use.
Legal for Medical use only:
- New Mexico
- North Dakota
- West Virginia
- New York
- New Hampshire
- Rhode Island
- New Jersey
This leaves nineteen states in America that have yet to legalize weed in any form, medically or recreationally, having either already shot down marijuana on previous voting ballots or have never brought the idea into the spotlight.
Not legal at all:
- South Dakota
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
According to the Pew Research Center, support for legalizing marijuana nationally currently stands at 91% for medical purposes, and 67% for recreational purposes. Opposition dropped from 52% in 2010 to only 32% in 2019. While legalizing marijuana has traditionally been a more Democratic/Liberal issue, the Republican party today generally supports legalizing it more than they oppose it.
55% support vs. 44% oppose
78% support vs. 20% oppose
The major “pro” arguments for legalizing marijuana today are:
- Legalizing weed completely would free up the police to worry about more severe crimes.
- There are many medical, physical and mental benefits from smoking or eating marijuana.
- It would free non-violent criminals from prisons.
- Legalizing marijuana and taxing it would bring in tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars in revenue for each state.
California has a tax on cannabis of 15% on top of the normal 9.25% sales tax, which brought in an additional $345 million in revenue for the state in 2018. States like Washington and Colorado, (the first two states to legalize weed recreationally), have tax rates of 37% and 25%, respectively. While having higher taxes on cannabis might seem harsh, many weed buyers have expressed they think it is an even trade, and would much rather spend a little bit more because of higher taxes on legal weed than spend much more to buy it from a drug dealer and risk going to jail and/or paying sky-high fines.
The major “con” arguments from those who oppose legalizing marijuana include:
- A potential rise in car accidents and workplace related accidents from reckless and irresponsible users.
- The possibility that weed could lead younger users to trying stronger, more addictive drugs.
- Outcry over some weed dispensaries marketing marijuana to young teenagers through the use of colorful edibles.
Edibles are for people who want marijuana but do not want to smoke it. Some edibles that have come under fire for targeting teens are weed peanut butter cups, weed cookies, weed candy bar knockoffs, and many more like them. To a young child, the appearance between regular Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups or a Snickers bar and the cannabis knockoffs are identical. Almost all states have banned the sale and marketing of edibles that resemble popular mainstream candy. Even in California where I live, popular edibles like brownies, s’mores and cookies have been banned since there is really no efficient way to measure how much THC goes into each bar or cookie. THC being the drug in cannabis that makes you high and can impair your abilities. While these are all fair, reasonable arguments to hear out even if you disagree with them, the overall consensus is that Americans want some form of legalized weed.
Now let’s get to Trump and the 2020 election.
In 2020, there will be eleven states (thus far) that will bring legalizing marijuana recreationally, medically, or both onto the voting ballots:
- New Jersey
- South Dakota
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Dakota
Among them, four (Arizona, Florida, Pennsylvania and Virginia) are major swing states with a total of 73 electoral votes between them, and all but Virginia went for Trump in 2016. Millennials overwhelmingly support the legalization of weed 77%-23%, and with key swing states having legalized weed on the ballot, those three red states could very well turn blue, giving 60 electoral votes to the Democrats and taking them away from Trump. Not to mention that two other swing states that voted for Trump, Ohio and Wisconsin, have 28 electoral votes between them and both have yet to put legalized marijuana for recreational use on the ballot.
No Republicans have publicly come forward to voice their support for legalizing marijuana across all 50 states, and Democrats need to capitalize on that and bring legalizing marijuana onto the ballots every state possible, especially those extremely important key swing states.
A big reason why Trump won is because there was a lack in motivation for younger voters to get out and vote. Younger voters (18–29) usually vote more Democratic, but both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were two of the least well-liked candidates in history and many young voters felt no real inspiration or motivation to support either one. This ballot initiative could be the spark that fuels younger and first-time voters in 2020 to make the journey from the couch to the voting booth even if the Democratic nominee is not their first choice.
In 2019, the number of Millennials in America officially surpassed the number of Boomers, in other words, if younger voters show up, I believe they will win. Democrats need to own loving marijuana the way Republicans own loving guns, and if voters know which of the two political parties is fighting to give them legalized weed, that may earn their vote for President as well, finally ridding us all in America of the toxic cancer known as Donald Trump.
About the Author:
Brian Moniz is from San Jose, Calif. He studied filmmaking and writing at San Jose State University from 2010–2013 and got his bachelor’s degree in Radio-TV-Film. Throughout his high school and college years, he worked as a music and movie journalist and critic. Having only recently come out of the closet himself in 2014, Brian enjoys writing about LGBTQ issues. His only regret when it comes to his sexuality is that he didn’t come out sooner.