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Navigating the Marijuana Legalization Debate: Perspectives, Policies, and Political Implications

Marijuana Legalization Debate

2024 Election Issues: Both Biden and Trump are cautious about marijuana and have ambiguous positions

DENVER — The issue of marijuana legalization has gained widespread support among Americans, with polls showing 88% in favor of at least partial legalization. Despite this, the leading presidential candidates have not effectively capitalized on this shift in attitudes. Three-quarters of Americans live in states where marijuana is legal for medical use, and half live in states where recreational use is also allowed.

However, marijuana remains illegal under federal law, presenting a disconnect between state and federal policies. Advocates believe that both Joe Biden and Donald Trump have opportunities to appeal to young voters by addressing this issue, as the lack of action on marijuana legalization has been highlighted at events such as the National Cannabis Festival and the Washington Policy Summit.

Key Concepts

  • Polls show that 88% of Americans support marijuana legalization.
  • Marijuana is legal for medical use in three-quarters of states.
  • Marijuana remains illegal under federal law.
  • The lack of action on marijuana legalization by presidential candidates has been criticized.
  • The Biden administration may revise the drug classification of marijuana.
  • The Trump administration has not taken concrete action on marijuana legalization.
  • Support for marijuana legalization is growing among American voters.
  • Young voters hope the Biden administration will address marijuana legalization before the election.

In the politically divided United States, marijuana is a rare consensus issue. Polls show that 88% of Americans support at least partial legalization of marijuana. Still, marijuana advocates say the leading presidential candidates from both major parties have missed the opportunity to capitalize on this shift in attitudes.

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Nearly three-quarters of Americans live in states where marijuana is legal for medical use. Half the population lives in states that also allow recreational use of marijuana. However, marijuana remains completely illegal under federal law and is listed with heroin and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) as a controlled substance that currently has no medical use and carries a high risk of abuse.

An overwhelming majority of U.S. voters believe this federal law should be changed, making marijuana an issue in the presidential race, according to Scotty Smart, a community organizer and member of the New Georgia Project. There are ready opportunities for both Joe Biden and Donald Trump to take advantage of, especially to impress young voters.

“A lot of people don’t understand the policy. A lot of people don’t understand how the policy affects their daily lives,” he said. “I think cannabis is an issue that can ignite passion among young people and make them pay attention.

“At the National Cannabis Festival and Washington Policy Summit, founder Caroline Phillips said neither Biden nor Trump have delivered results.

“One thing both of them have in common is that their records on cannabis have been inconsistent and incremental,” she said. “We’ve heard promises from both administrations that have not been fully realized.”

Under Biden, she said, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services proposed to revise the drug classification of marijuana and change marijuana to a lighter drug classification—not to “delist it,” that is, legalize it, but to “relist it.”

“The White House’s current cannabis policy is still a little unclear,” Phillips said. “They’ve given us big signals that they’re willing to move to ‘delisting,’ but it’s more likely to be ‘relisting.’ But we haven’t done anything yet.” See them follow up their words with action.”

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In 2018, then-President Trump said he would “probably” support efforts to end federal marijuana prohibition and leave it up to states to determine its legality. Congress never passed that bill.

Last year, Trump told Newsmax in an interview that studies showed marijuana “causes serious harm, but from a voting perspective, it’s a very popular thing.”

Phillips, the founder of the National Cannabis Festival, said, “Trump’s record on marijuana is inconsistent at best. On one hand, we’ve heard him say that people who sell drugs on the illegal market should be jailed or even killed. I think on this issue he’s saying, “But on the other hand, we’ve also seen him pardon people who were imprisoned for marijuana.”

Gallup polls show the changing attitude of American voters on the issue of marijuana. Last year, 70% of adults supported legalization, more than double the number who said they supported legalizing marijuana in 2000.

“This is an increasingly important issue for voters, especially younger voters, and for anyone hoping to The same goes for leading candidates; whether it’s a presidential election, a congressional election, or a state or local legislative election, if they ignore this issue, they do so at their own peril.”

Young voters are excited about legalization. The Biden administration can take action on marijuana before the November election.

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