The decision of Attorney General Jeff Sessions to rescind the Obama policy allowing states to legalize marijuana without federal interference has caused a firestorm of controversy, including an array of irate Republicans. As we have been discussing, recreational and medical marijuana is now a multi-billion dollar industry that is pouring tax revenues into states. More importantly, it is very popular and it is becoming more so by the day. Indeed, there is now an overwhelming majority of Americans who want to see pot legalized and taxed. A new Pew poll shows not only 61 percent of people supporting legalization but an overwhelming number of Republicans in every age group except the oldest voters. For that reason, the decision of Sessions to open up this new political front could cost an already besieged GOP in retaining its control of Congress. At a minimum, it threatens to drive a wedge between the GOP and the young voters — a voting bloc desperately needed in 2018 and 2020. Some members are grumbling that they were already fearing the loss of one or two houses before this decision. The new policy will only make it that much harder to retain the majority in Congress. Moreover, various GOP members have denounced the Administration for breaking a promise made by Trump to let states make these decisions.
The 61 percent is an increase from 57 percent just a year ago. It is twice the support from 2000. However, what is really interesting is the breakdown on specific groups. Millennials are polling at 70%. What should worry the GOP is that the percentage of millennials is identical to the support among Democrats. That is a dangerous overlap for a party that is increasingly worried about an age demographic that continues to rise. Some 43 percent of Republicans support legalization but the opposition is largely confined to the older demographic bands.
For those in the GOP (or GOP leaning) who are younger than 40, support for legalization stands at 62 percent. For those between the ages of 40 and 64 in the GOP ranks, almost half support legalization (48 percent). It is the oldest group of over 65 years and oppose legalization by 67 percent to 30 percent.
favor legalizing marijuana use, 62% to 38%. Republicans ages 40 to 64 are divided (48% say it should be legal, 49% illegal), while those 65 and older oppose marijuana legalization by more than two-to-one (67% to 30%).
From a purely political perspective, the polling numbers could not be worst for a party fighting to build a new foundation. The Democrats could not have picked a more perfect issue to wedge the GOP and younger voters. This is the type of policy that costs dearly with single-issue voters and this is the ultimate single issue for a huge number of voters. The questions being asked by GOP members are why and why now?