A new Public Policy Polling survey from early primary states Iowa and New Hampshire has found that a solid majority of Republican respondents approve of states’ rights to carry out marijuana policy reform without the feds cracking down. The survey, commissioned by the Marijuana Majority, found that 64 and 67 percent of Republican respondents in Iowa and New Hampshire, respectively, agree that “states should be able to carry out their own marijuana laws without federal interference.”
In both states, the percentage of respondents who supported that sentiment was higher for Democrats (80 percent in Iowa; 77 percent in New Hampshire) and respondents overall (70 percent in Iowa; 73 percent in New Hampshire).
Republican presidential frontrunners Donald Trump and Jeb Bush have taken positions that are in line with the polls’ respondents, but the data may be less welcome news for Chris Christie and Marco Rubio, who recently came out strongly in favor of a federal shutdown of states’ marijuana legalization efforts.
Democratic candidates are less polarized on the issue, with most of them taking a wait-and-see approach that straddles a line between condemning and earnestly endorsing marijuana legalization without calling for federal intervention.
“Our poll shows that across party lines, and regardless of personal support for legalization, the vast majority of voters simply want the feds to get out of the way and let states implement their own reforms without harassment,” Marijuana Majority Chairman Tom Angell tells Rolling Stone. “For Democrats – who polls show overwhelmingly support legalization – this means giving states a chance to show that legalization actually works well. For Republicans – who aren’t as hot on legalization, according to polls – this means extending the cherished principle of states’ rights and a smaller federal government even in areas where they personally don’t support the policy proposal at hand.”
Trump and Bush appear to have set aside some personal qualms with marijuana policy reform in favor of states’ rights. Trump, who is leading in the polls, called for drug legalization in 1990, but has since expressed some ambivalence on marijuana policy. Trump has said to Sean Hannity that marijuana legalization in Colorado is “bad,” adding that “medical marijuana is another thing, but I think it’s bad, and I feel strongly about that.” When pressed about states’ rights, Trump said, “If they vote for it, they vote for it,” but maintained that “a lot of bad information is coming,” including “tremendously damaging effects to the mind, to the brain, to everything. So it’s a big problem.”
Jeb Bush, coming in at number two in the GOP polls, has adopted a similar approach. As governor of Florida, he opposed marijuana policy reform, including a medical marijuana amendment on the state’s ballot, and maintained his support for a state’s right to decide. At the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference, he summed up his position succinctly, claiming that marijuana legalization is “a bad idea, but states ought to have that right to do it.”