On February 23rd, White House press secretary Sean Spicer told the media he expected a federal crackdown on legal marijuana states. Though Spicer specified that he predicted the Department of Justice would only be going after recreational and not medical marijuana, his announcement raised concerns on both sides of the aisle. Members of the bipartisan Congressional Cannabis Caucus, including Dana Rohrabacher of California and Jared Polis of Colorado, have expressed their disappointment in the announcement, while Democratic officials in legal cannabis states, such as Washington state attorney general Bob Ferguson, are vowing to uphold the will of state voters. In a climate of increasing political unrest, the states’ rights aspect of this issue could be a considerable force by the time the 2018 elections roll around.
2018 Election Map
All 435 seats in the House of Representatives are up for grabs in 2018 as well as 33 Senate seats. Currently, 18 Senate Democrats, four Republicans, and two Independents have announced their intentions to seek reelection. Several others may seek reelection, but have not made official announcements yet.
While it’s a bit early for official ballot initiative announcements, several states have indicated interest in voting on cannabis laws. Michigan, North Dakota, and Florida are collecting signatures in hopes of putting marijuana legislation on 2018 ballots, while Oklahoma, Missouri, and Texas are making strides toward legalizing medical cannabis.
According to 2016 Gallup polling, 60 percent of Americans support marijuana legalization, and the party line breakdown is much closer than it once was. While 67 percent of Democrats favor legalization, Independents turn up the highest figure at 70 percent, and 42 percent of Republicans support legalization. Further, a 2016 CBS News poll found that 70 percent of Republicans believe marijuana legislation should be determined at the state level.
The End of Voter Apathy?
Recent outrage over the failure of elected representatives to engage with voters has the potential to serve as a catalyst for marijuana reform across the country. Progressive movements such as Indivisible are actively encouraging citizens to air their grievances, particularly about healthcare issues, with their senators and representatives. As irate groups take to town hall meetings and mobile office hours, many Republican officials stand accused of dodging their own constituents, and their evasion could prove enough to galvanize a large voting bloc. Voter turnout to midterm elections has been abysmal in recent years, hitting a post-war low in 2014 with just under 37 percent of eligible voters bothering to show up to the polls. But those days of apathy may well be over. The country is currently experiencing a renaissance of civic engagement.
Marijuana legalization has reached historic levels of popular support, and millennials are on track to flock to the polls in record numbers. While there are still far too many variables (from talk of impeachment to potential Supreme Court vacancies) in play to accurately predict what will happen in 2018, if the current trajectory is maintained, marijuana legislation may well have a starring role in the midterm elections.
Dan Ogden is a 20+ year veteran of the executive search industry, having covered operations, regulatory and consulting verticals within capital markets as well as data science, data analytics and, more recently, the cannabis industry within search firm and internal corporate HR leadership roles. Dan is Principal of the practice at Delta 9, the Western Hemisphere's' only dedicated cannabis industry executive search firm. To find out how Delta 9's proprietary, trademarked end-to-end recruiting methodology can help you find the key executives to make your company thrive and grow in the cannabis industry, shoot us an email, or give us a ring at 212.390.8190.