As potential 2016 candidates gather their policy advisors and begin to isolate their views on key issues, they may want to consider one above the rest — weed.
You can make stoner jokes all you want, but marijuana policy stands to affect just as many Americans as immigration policy does in the coming years. And while Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have made their views on border control clear, the fast-changing weed landscape (a full 54 percent of Americans now favor legalization) has left Republicans and Democrats all over the map when it comes to toking.
Some have been altogether mum on the topic — the last time Hillary Clinton spoke publicly about weed policy was during the 2008 campaign. In 2012, it was laughable to think that Colorado would legalize recreational weed.
Less than two years later, 75 percent of Americans think legalization nationwide is inevitable. Even President Obama has deemed pot no more dangerous than alcohol.
Suddenly, a majority of Americans are comfortable with their neighbors smoking pot, and politicians will have to decide whether or not they should embrace that or take a more cautious position.
Former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer tells The Wall Street Journal, “All of a sudden the ground is shifting, and it’s uncomfortable and complicated. Marijuana has become an issue that candidates have got to pay attention to.”
Back in October, The New Republic’s Nate Cohn imagined how candidates could use the issue against each other in the primaries: “Many candidates will have incentives to use the issue, whether it’s a cultural conservative using marijuana to hurt Rand Paul among evangelicals in Iowa, or a liberal trying to stoke a progressive revolt against Clinton’s candidacy.”
So will presidential hopefuls come out joints blazing in 2016? That remains to be seen. Here’s where the candidates stand now:
Weed Is the Sleeper Issue of 2016 - The Wire