Why Aren't More Congressional Candidates Embracing Marijuana Reform?

The following was originally published on The Fresh Toast

By John Hudak

In the lead up to the 2018 midterm elections, cannabis advocates are going through a familiar routine: throwing their hands up in frustration as to why more candidates are not embracing cannabis reform. It’s an important question for the movement and one that, based on public opinion polling, suggests a disconnect between the public and their elected officials. However, new polling shines a light on why this disconnect happens and it all boils down to congressional primaries.

Public opinion around cannabis reform has changed dramatically over the past two decades. Support for medical cannabis hovers somewhere above 80 percent (sometimes well above that), and recent polling shows that two-thirds of Americans support adult-use cannabis reform. So, why hasn’t the D.C. establishment embraced such a popular issue? I have written elsewhere that there is a disconnect between support and salience. That is, while many people support cannabis reform, an overwhelming number of Americans just don’t care about it. Most Americans are not regular users, and most feel it is an issue that doesn’t affect them. Cannabis policy has never entered the top 20 issues Americans care most about according to Gallup. This means that Americans are unlikely to vote against a candidate based on that position, and that candidates are unlikely to stake out a position on it. We have seen that play out in election after election.

However, national polling misses an important facet of American politics and a major part of the calculus that elected officials use when forming issue positions. Increasingly—and especially in House races—candidates appeal to their primary electorate. In an era in which gerrymandering is a common tradition for both parties, there are a significant number of House races in which the primary is the race to watch and the general election is just a formality. Congressional primaries have embarrassingly low voter turnout, meaning tiny minority of voters are making the biggest decisions about who ultimately gets elected.

So, if candidates are running largely to appeal to a primary base of voters, it is important to understand what those voters believe on a host of issues. Unfortunately, we don’t have a good idea what the congressional primary electorate thinks about policy. Until now.

Over the past few election cycles, the Primaries Project at the Brookings Institution has been conducting some of the nation’s first ever exit polling of congressional primaries. We put exit polls into the field in some of the nation’s competitive congressional districts in 17 states—those districts in which interest and turnout would naturally be higher and where turnout would be somewhat more reflective of an electorate that turns out in November (relative to non-competitive districts). And this year, for the first time, we asked about cannabis reform.

The results were striking. We asked simply “Do you believe marijuana should be legal and regulated or illegal?” As the chart below shows, Democratic primary voters polled overwhelmingly supported cannabis reform. Nearly 84 percent of Democratic primary voters said that they believed cannabis should be legal and regulated. However, among Republican primary voters polled, the issue is quite controversial. A majority—nearly 52 percent of Republican primary voters—believed that cannabis should remain illegal.

While some national polling has shown recently that Republicans are coming around on the issue of cannabis reform, even indicating a majority of Republicans nationally support reform, the primary electorate may be different. It is important to note that we did not poll in every Congressional primary. And from district to district, race to race, results could vary. However, in 20 of this year’s competitive primaries, cannabis reform is controversial for Republicans. Combining those poll results with an understanding that cannabis is not a salient issue, Republicans are unlikely to stake out a position on it. Why engage a controversial issue if you can simply avoid it?

The next chart illustrates that issue avoidance in action. In addition to conducting exit polling, Brookings’ Primaries Project also coded the websites of every candidate running for the U.S. House nationwide — whether they were serious candidates or not. If a candidate filed to run for office and maintained a campaign website, we collected data from that website. Candidates’ positions on cannabis was one such issue we coded for.

What we found was that, by and large, candidates remained silent on the issue—a reflection of a topic that is not salient among the public. Unsurprisingly, Democrats were much more likely to discuss it with over 20 percent of candidates saying that they supported legalization or decriminalization of cannabis. However, about 78 percent of Democratic primary candidates and over 93 percent of Republican primary candidates provided no information on their position on cannabis.

These data offer some important takeaways for cannabis reform in the context of Congressional elections. First, there is little reason Democrats are not staking out strong, pro-cannabis reform positions. In races in which candidates are appealing to the primary electorate, cannabis is a winning issue. (We also know from general polling that it’s a winning issue for Democrats among all of their party’s voters, too.) It is embarrassing that only 20 percent of Democratic House candidates endorse cannabis reform on their campaign website.

Second, it makes sense that Republicans avoid this issue and are not embracing cannabis reform. Our data suggest that in some of the nation’s competitive congressional primaries, cannabis reform remains deeply controversial. If those numbers are reflective of Republican congressional primary voters more generally, that controversy is something Republicans want to distance themselves from. And although voters and even debate commentators are asking candidates about cannabis reform more frequently than in the past, over 93 percent of Republican House candidates refuse to post a position on their campaign website.

Ultimately, while Americans may broadly believe in cannabis reform, and the issue seems like a no-brainer for candidates and elected officials, the realities of American politics suggest the issue is more complex. Among Republican primary voters who turn out to vote and for the voters who Republican congressional candidates pay the most attention to, cannabis remains a controversial issue and one in which they can get away with remaining silent about. The solution for motivating elected officials on the issue of cannabis is for the reform community to remain more engaged, hold candidates’ and elected officials’ feet to the fire, and actually turn out to vote—not just in November every four years, but in primaries and general elections every year. Right now, cannabis advocates’ votes don’t matter to most politicians, and the advocacy community needs to show candidates that it’s time to take cannabis policy seriously.

The preceding article is from one of our external contributors. It does not represent the opinion of Benzinga and has not been edited.

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11 Best Black Friday Deals on Amazon

11 Best Black Friday Deals on Amazon

The best Black Friday deals from Amazon are still coming hard and fast because the holiday is not yet upon us and the mega-retailer prefers to keep consumers on the hook for as long as possible—spending as much money as possible. 

To that end, here are some of the best Black Friday deals from Amazon that you might want to consider today.

Calphalon 10-Piece Pots and Pans Set

Regular Price: $172

Sale Price: $138.88

Calphalon’s 10-Piece Pots and Pans Set is designed with stainless steel, stay-cool handles along with pour spouts. The nonstick surface is PFOA-free and built with hard-anodized aluminum that is both durable and conducts heat extremely well. The set includes 2 fry pans, a sauce pan with cover, saute pan with cover and large stock pot with cover.

Apple AirPods 2nd Generation

Regular Price: $144

Sale Price: $85.49

The 2nd Generation AirPods from Apple connect to all Apple devices and give you an enhanced listening experience. Plus, they come with a case that keeps them safe and allows you to charge them in a secure environment. With over 24 hours of battery life, access to Siri and easy setup, you can start listening to your favorite tunes or podcasts today.

Adidas Ultraboost 21 Running Shoes

Regular Price: $129.98

Sale Price: $89.98

The Adidas Women’s Ultraboost 21 running shoe is perfect for anyone who likes a short run, maybe a 5K, half marathon or more. Coming in several colors and styles, you can slip these shoes on, enjoy the cushioned outsole, sink into the supple insole and secure laces.

Ninja AF101 Air Fryer

Regular Price: $129.99

Sale Price: $97.83

The Ninja AF101 Air Fryer allows you to crisp, roast, reheat and even dehydrate food products faster and cheaper than ever before. It has a 4-quart capacity and offers a wide temperature range along with several time settings so that you can customize each dish to your needs. Plus, all the parts are dishwasher safe.

Beats Solo3 Wireless On-Ear Headphones

Regular Price: $199.95

Sale Price: $99

Beats by Dr. Dre are among the best headphones on the market, and the Solo3 Wireless On-Ear Headphones include the Apple W1 chip, Class 1 Bluetooth and 40 hours of battery time. These headphones even have a built-in microphone and offer an adjustable fit so that you can be comfortable whether you’re listening to an Android or iOS device.

Hoover Power Scrub Deluxe Carpet Cleaner

Regular Price: $198.98

Sale Price: $175.98

The Hoover Power Scrub Deluxe Carpet Cleaner allows you to keep your home spotless and clean up after your pets. The cleaner comes with the Hoover Paws and Claws Deep shampoo and a storage mat to keep the floor dry once it’s put away.

LG CordZero Auto Empty Cordless Stick Vacuum

Regular Price: $999.00

Sale Price: $851.71

The LG CordZero Auto Empty Cordless Stick Vacuum and Wet Mop All in One Tower is designed to work in homes with several pets or children and clean up all the messes that life brings. The battery lasts up to 2 hours, and there’s an extra removable battery that gives you even more cleaning time and power.

Breville Fresh and Furious Blender

Regular Price: $278.60

Sale Price: $199.95

Breville, a top name in blenders and juicers, offers the Fresh and Furious Blender, featuring 50-ounce capacity, Vac Q technology, pre-programmed cycles, LCD display and lid with pull ring. With the Fresh and Furious Blender, you can make everything from a smoothie to a soup and everything in between.

Hot Tools Professional 2000 Turbo Ionic Hair Dryer

Regular Price: $89.99

Sale Price: $55.63

The Hot Tools Professional 2000 Turbo Ionic Hair Dryer is designed for professional use, but it works perfectly in the home. With 1875 watts of power, 6 heat and speed settings and a lightweight design, you can easily style your hair and utilize the diffuser, cut back on the frizz and stretch the 8 ft cord for maximum functionality.

Columbia Heavenly Long Hooded Jacket

Regular Price: $160

Sale Price: $97.38

The Heavenly Long Hooded Jacket from Columbia is designed to be light for everyday use, but it’s heavy enough to protect you from the cold. The plush fleece lining, security pocket, water resistant fabric, 2-way zipper, and zippered hand pockets make the jacket both protective and functional.

ConAir InfinitiPro Hair Dryer

Regular Price: $49.99

Sale Price: $29.99

ConAir is one of the biggest names in hair and beauty, and the InfinitPro is an 1875 watt hair dryer designed for professionals with ceramic technology. The dryer comes with a diffuser and concentrator, and it allows you to blow out your hair just the way they would at the salon.

Deals the Experts Are Hoping For

Experts believe that Amazon’s Black Friday sale could linger for quite some time. It all started with the Prime Early Access sale on October 11 and 12. Previously, Amazon has offered the “Epic Deals” sale that ran through late October. 

This is to say that any sale could come up at any time. 

Even so, those monitoring Amazon are looking forward to a few potential deals, including:

  • Apple Watch
  • AirPods (any generation)
  • MacBook Pro
  • Large, underpriced TVs
  • Amazon Echo
  • More small home appliances (Dyson or Shark vacuums, Instant Pots, etc.) 

While these predictions are based on last year’s Amazon Black Friday Sale, it’s important to remember that most Black Friday sales are fairly consistent and push the products that are most likely to sell.

 

Featured image sourced from Shutterstock

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