In the early primary states of New Hampshire and Iowa, the majority of Republican voters believe that states should be able to enact their own cannabis laws without fear of federal interference, according to a poll released Tuesday by the advocacy group Marijuana Majority.
In a survey of over 2,300 registered voters in August, Public Policy Polling found that 64 percent of Republicans in Iowa and 67 percent of Republicans in New Hampshire said they supported a state’s right to legalize cannabis.
“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 told 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.”
In the Marijuana Majority survey, only 21 percent of Iowa Republicans and 24 percent of New Hampshire Republicans answered that they wanted the federal government to arrest and prosecute state law-compliant businesses and individuals in the cannabis industry.
For Ann Lee, the co-founder of Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition (RAMP) who lives in Texas, the shifts in opinion in New Hampshire and Iowa signal a larger change coming.
“It’s becoming obvious that more and more people are understanding that the drug war is not the answer,” said Lee, who added that she was seeing increasing support from young Republicans in her state. “Prohibition goes against everything a true Republican or conservative believes. The reason that Republicans have been averse to marijuana is because we’ve been strong for law and order, but I want people to realize that there are times when America has had bad laws, and marijuana prohibition has been bad law.”
The road toward the GOP’s acceptance of cannabis since Republican presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan institutionalized the War on Drugs in the 1970s and ’80s has been long and incremental. In the field of 2016 Republican presidential candidates, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio and Rick Santorum have shouted the loudest against marijuana, promising to use the might of the federal government to crack down on states like Washington and Colorado who have legalized adult-use cannabis.
But on the other hand, candidate Rand Paul has co-sponsored the CARERS Act, which would allow state governments to set their own marijuana policies without federal interference. And the majority of Republican presidential candidates mirror the opinions expressed in the recent poll from New Hampshire and Iowa, supporting state’s rights while remaining hesitant about exactly how much cannabis they themselves think should be legal.
The Marijuana Majority poll replicates other recent surveys that had found public support for marijuana legalization inching forward across most demographics. An ongoing survey by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center has seen approval of cannabis legalization in New Hampshire increase from 48 percent in February 2013 to 60 percent in July 2015. And nationwide, the Pew Research Center found that 52 percent of Americans across both parties supported marijuana legalization in 2014.
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