The cannabis industry continues to rapidly expand as more Americans than ever before support legalization. The month of November could potentially add even more momentum to the industry as a handful of high-profile midterm races feature outspoken proponents of cannabis, who are eager for reform.
One in five Americans currently live in a state with access to cannabis for adult use and states across the country are taking notice. States, such as North Dakota, where legal cannabis once seemed far off now have very real considerations at hand. Michigan and Utah voters will also have the chance to vote directly on the future of cannabis via ballot initiatives.
Cannabis has also emerged front-and-center as an election year issue in many states without ballot measures, in places like Texas and Florida, where Beto O’Rourke and Andrew Gillum are making waves.
The underdog in Texas: Beto’s grassroots campaign fights for legalization
It’s been more than 18 years since a Democrat served as a United States Senator of Texas.
Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic challenger looking to unseat Ted Cruz, is hoping to change that through a wildly active grassroots campaign; one that left the El Paso native speaking in all 254 Texas counties over the past 12 months.
Throughout the campaign trail, O’Rourke continually hammered on the state’s disproportional rates of minority communities in prison populations, often highlighting the ill effects the war on drugs has left on these communities.
“Let me ask you this: in a country where the majority of the states in the union have already decided to make marijuana legal in one form or another—where people in California and Colorado and the Northwest are getting filthy rich legally selling marijuana today—who is going to be the last African American boy or man to rot behind bars in Texas for something that’s legal in almost every other single part of the country?,” said O’Rourke during a recent gathering at a Baptist church in Dallas.
During a recent debate, O’Rourke drove this point even further – while also pushing for outright legalization, stating “Yes, I want to end the war on drugs and want to end the prohibition on marijuana.”
O’Rourke’s opponent, Ted Cruz, hasn’t been a supporter of legalization. The Calgary, Canada native has never signed his name onto a single piece of cannabis reform legislation.
Current polls indicate O’Rourke has a real chance to pull off the monumental upset.
Governor’s Race in Florida: Andrew Gillum pushing for adult-use cannabis
Florida’s medical cannabis program continues to grow as state regulators issue more cultivation and dispensary licenses, but an adult-use program has yet to hit the Sunshine State.
A democrat running for the upcoming Governor’s race, Andrew Gillum, could act as a leader in guiding the state towards an adult-use cannabis program if elected in November.
Gillum, who was once Tallahassee’s youngest city commissioner, has been an outspoken proponent of legalization, often highlighting the potential revenue that it could generate for his home state.
“Legalize it. (cannabis) Tax it. Use the revenue to fix Florida’s public schools and move us up from 29th in the nation to #1,” said Gillum in a tweet posted in late January.
Gillum’s opponent, Ron Desantis, does not feature cannabis as a main issue on his campaigns website, and has been weary of introducing an adult-use program, often citing the potential unproven dangers it could leave on local youths.
“Now I’m not somebody that thinks having recreational marijuana for young people is good. I think that will make it more difficult for people to succeed. And I think parents right now—it’s very difficult to raise children in the modern technological environment, you’ve got so many different distractions, to throw marijuana into it and make it more prevalent, I think would make it harder for parents,” said Gillum during an interview with WPLG 10News.
Current polling suggests Gillum has a narrow lead over his opponent; if the results hold, Florida could soon have its adult-use cannabis program.
Regardless of outcome, the fight for legalization will continue
If O’Rourke or Gillum win office, it’s no guarantee that their states will quickly move to reform cannabis laws.
In politics, individual legislators can help push and create new policies, but their influence is always limited by D.C.’s checks and balances. Public pressure, and bipartisan support is often needed for significant change to occur.
If Cruz, or DeSantis secure public office, cannabis in Florida and Texas will not be doomed; Cruz’s own party recently endorsed a medical cannabis program in his home state – and in Florida, voters continually express a majority support for an adult use cannabis program. Cruz and DeSantis may not embody the ideal pro-cannabis platforms, but their constituents and colleagues are calling for more action.
Regardless of outcome, having cannabis act as a key issue during recent debates, and campaign trails is an encouraging sign for those fighting for reform.