We're not sure what's going on with the Grand Old Party. It has the presidency. It has Congress. Yet its cornerstone legislative proposals — repealing and replacing Obamacare and cutting taxes for the rich — are going nowhere fast. And within the last week three Republican senators have rebuked President Trump, including Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, who gave an impassioned speech on the Senate floor Tuesday in which he called Trump's behavior "outrageous and undignified." Now, as Trump's attorney general, Jeff Sessions, continues to rail against marijuana, the Gallup Poll registered a first: A majority of Republicans favor the legalization of cannabis.
With the party experiencing political fissures almost every workday, perhaps some strong medicine is indeed in order. "This year for the first time, a majority of Republicans express support for legalizing marijuana; the current 51 percent is up 9 percentage points from last year," according to a Gallup summary.
The firm asked 1,028 adult Americans their opinions on weed. To be fair, the results might be more liberal than if only registered voters, who tend to be older and more conservative, were polled. Still, it's a landmark, and it points to more issues with a party that seems to be going in a different direction than the country, says Tom Angell, chairman of the group Marijuana Majority.
"Republican leaders in Congress are way behind where their constituents are on this issue," Angell said via email. "But it's worth noting that a number of Democratic politicians — such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein — are even more out of step with their party's voters."
Sixty-four percent of Americans overall support legalization, Gallup found. "This is the highest level of public support Gallup has found for the proposal in nearly a half-century of measurement," according to the firm.
"We are not shocked that support for cannabis legalization continues to grow, especially as more Americans become better educated about the plant and the benefits legalization brings to both patients and communities," Erik Hultstrom, co-founder of the L.A. cannabis trade group Southern California Coalition, said via email. "A fairly licensed, taxed, regulated, enforced and inclusive marketplace has very little downside. That’s why more Americans want responsible cannabis laws passed and enacted at both a state and federal level."
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When it first weighed legalization in the psychedelic year of 1969, only 12 percent of U.S. adults were in favor, according to Gallup. California legalized medical marijuana in 1996, becoming the first state to do so, and last year voters approved recreational marijuana, the sales of which were expected to begin in January.
Despite that, Angell says Golden State residents don't need to pat themselves on the back for being forward-thinking. "The rest of us were actually wondering what took California so long," he said. "A clear majority of Americans had endorsed legalization years before the Golden State got around to enacting it."
Still, California seems to have it more together than the GOP.
“Marijuana legalization is far more popular than Jeff Sessions or Donald Trump and will survive them both," Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement. "Instead of wasting limited law enforcement resources trying to stop successful state-level legalization initiatives, U.S. officials should listen to the clear, bipartisan message the public is sending them, and support federal marijuana reform as well."