Is Barack Obama going to legalise marijuana Magazine claims it could be his “secret weapon” in 2012 presidential election
Political commentators are openly speculating whether President Obama will offer to legalise cannabis as part of his 2012 re-election campaign as a “secret weapon”.
With the upcoming face-off between Mr Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney expected to be won in a few key swing states, Democratic strategists have long thought to be considering the highly controversial move in an effort to bolster their youth vote.
In theory the move would be to mobilise voter interest in the 18-30 demographic nationwide with a so called “pot ballot” and research by Democrats estimate that the measure could push youth turnout up by two to four percentage points, which would be enough to influence what is expected to be a tight presidential race.
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Political commentators are speculating whether President Barack Obama should have a “marijuana moment” and offer to legalise the drug to bolster youth support in the 2012 election
Having studied California voting down Proposition 19 in 2010, Democrats are now keenly following the polls in Colorado, where Amendment 64 to legalise small amounts of recreational cannabis will be decided on November 6 at the same time as the presidential ballot and which currently has the backing of 61 percent of voters.
Indeed, a December 2009 survey conducted in Colorado by Democratic pollster Andrew Myers found that 45 percent of people who voted for the first time in 2008 for President Obama, called “surge voters”, would be equally interested if not more in turning out again if marijuana legalisation was an election issue.
“If you are 18-29, it”s far and away the most compelling reason to go out and vote,” said Mr Myers to the Wall Street Journal
Despite Proposition 19 not passing in California, political pundits saw encouraging signs for garnering support among young voters to help create a “marijuana moment” for President Obama in the run up to 2012.
Democratic strategists have explored the relationship between a larger vote in the 18-30 demographic when cannabis legalisation is on the agenda
Sixty-four percent of voters 18-24 supported the proposed legalisation in 2010 while 52 percent of voters 25-29 did too, said the Atlantic.
And a survey this month by the right leaning Rasmussen Reports showed 56 percent of those asked nationally were in favour of legalisation, pointing to growing signs that cannabis reform may be a political vote winner and not a liability.
The reasoning behind the exploration of cannabis legalisation as an election issue stems from the 2004 drive by Republicans to ban gay marriage in Ohio and 10 other states.
Fast Eddy Aki”a of Hawaii smokes a joint as thousands gather to celebrate Colorado”s medicinal marijuana laws in 2012
Barack Obama smokes a cigarette in Kenya (left) and during his days at Harvard (right)
Riding high: Obama, who was known for creating marijuana inhaling techniques while at high school, drove with his friends in the Choomwagon, a VW microbus like that pictured
While it is up for debate whether that issue helped President George W. Bush win re-election nationwide as turnout was high, it was proven to drive more conservatives to the polls in the key state of Ohio and helped Mr Bush win by two percentage points there, or about 118,000 votes.
It is that kind of electrified partisan support that the Democrats would like to harness for the tough campaign that is expected in 2012.
A Gallup poll from 2011 found that 57 percent of Democrats think marijuana should be legal and 62 percent of adults under 30 supported an overhaul of legislation.
In fact, the same poll found that 50 percent of the entire nation was supportive of changing federal law.
President Obama used marijuana at school. This photograph is from his yearbook and thanks his friends in the Choom Gang – slang for smoking pot – and Ray, his drug dealer
Another reason why Democrats might be interested in utilising a “pot ballot” is the changing shape of opposition year on year.
In an October 2009 Gallup poll, 54 percent of American”s believed that cannabis should remain illegal and a year later in 2010 that gap had shrunk to 50 percent who wanted to preserve the status-quo.
In the last poll of 2011 those against had fallen to 46 percent which is an eight point national swing away from opposition and which seems to support the Rasmussen Reports findings from this year.
Speaking at the time of the failed Proposition 19 vote, philanthropist Peter Lewis, chairman of Progressive Insurance Cos saw a wind change.
President Barack Obama speaks at a fundraising reception in Baltimore, Tuesday, June 12, 2012
“(Maraijuana law is) emerging as one of the leading national issues in the coming years,” said Lewis.
“Change is inevitable and my priority is to make that change positive.”
Surveys during 2010 in California by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling saw figures that pointed to voters under 30 being driven to the ballot solely by support for pot legalisation.
They showed strong evidence that Proposition 19 and not the candidate who personally supported it as the main motivation to vote.
While no state in the U.S. currently allows recreational marijuana use, public opinion has become divided over the continued crack down on medical cannabis dispensaries and “stop and frisk” searches that lead to the arrest of 850,000 American citizens each year.
In fact, a study released on Friday by the Centers for Disease Control found that in 2011, for the first time ever, more American teens smoked pot than cigarettes.
The Annual Youth Risk Behviour Survey from the CDC took 15,000 surveys in 43 states and found that 23 percent of students said they had used marijuana in the last month, whereas only 18 percent said they had smoked cigarettes.
While any move to legalising cannabis would be incredibly risky for professed former drug user President Obama, a political argument to change the law would offer clear traction for the pro-marijuana lobby.