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Strong Support for Marijuana Legalization Among Registered Voters on Social Media

Words of wisdom for Republican candidates from Bob Dylan - The times, they are a changin’.

AP

A PsyID analysis of roughly 75,000 registered voters across party lines on social media shows enthusiastic and widespread support for the legalization of marijuana, with virtually no opposition or organized support for ongoing criminalization.

Interestingly, registered Republicans, Libertarians, and right-leaning voters of other party affiliations lead registered Democrats in voicing support for legalization on their social media accounts nearly 3 to 1, indicating a fundamental disconnect between GOP politicians and their party’s voters on the issue.

Twenty states and Washington D.C. have legalized marijuana in some form with most for medical purposes. Two of those, Colorado and Washington, allow recreational use as well. Fifteen others have legalization bills pending.

Brent Miller poses for a photo with marijuana plants ready to harvest in one of the grow rooms of his medical marijuana grow operation, Thursday, May 16, 2013, in Seattle. Officials in Washington state released a draft set of rules for the state s new marijuana industry Thursday, nearly eight months after voters here legalized pot for adults. Credit: AP Brent Miller poses for a photo with marijuana plants ready to harvest in one of the grow rooms of his medical marijuana grow operation, Thursday, May 16, 2013, in Seattle. Credit: AP 

Individual liberty and revenue from taxation (in lieu of increased property, sales, and state income taxes) were the two most common sentiments of those voicing support on the right. A close third and fourth were voters feeling that there was an increased acceptance from the medical community of marijuana as a treatment for a variety of ailments, and the general perception that pot was safer than alcohol both from  health and public safety perspectives.

Lastly, many take a more simplistic approach questioning why government is criminalizing the growing and smoking of a plant found in nature, with sanctions often more severe than those imposed for violent crimes. Most important, those on the right who voice specific support for marijuana legalization also voice support for the second amendment, Tea Party, Libertarian Party, and less government intrusion into social issues.

In short, it appears a large portion of registered Republicans are drifting further right on this and other cultural issues, away from the message of the Republican National Committee and party leadership. Not surprising considering the strong support we see when looking at politicians like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, as opposed to the consistently low sentiment among registered Republicans towards John Boehner and Mitch McConnell.

Reviewing a sample of #marijuana on Twitter, our analysis could find no support for continued criminalization. Strong support for legalization and medical applications comprised 100 percent of the tweets we reviewed. Other common hashtags yielded the same results.

FILE - In this Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012 file photo, medical marijuana is packaged for sale in 1-gram packages at the Northwest Patient Resource Center medical marijuana dispensary, in Seattle. Votes this week by Colorado and Washington to allow adult marijuana possession have prompted what could be a turning point in the nation's conflicted and confusing war on drugs. Credit: AP In this Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012 file photo, medical marijuana is packaged for sale in 1-gram packages at the Northwest Patient Resource Center medical marijuana dispensary, in Seattle. Credit: AP 

These findings are supported by a recent Miami Herald poll in which 7 out of 10 of registered Florida voters supported the legalization of medical marijuana.

A whopping 81 percent of respondents supported the ability of doctors to recommend and prescribe marijuana as a therapy without facing arrest or licensure issues with only 14 percent opposed. Support by party affiliation was 56 percent Republican, 70 percent Democrat. This tells me that in actuality Republican support is probably higher as the Herald tends to lean left, and I often find their polling samples reflective of their political complexion.

The GOP controlled Florida Legislature is still undecided on the issue, and Republican Gov. Rick Scott, and Attorney General Pam Bondi are still opposed. However, GOP sources in Tallahassee tell me that sentiment among Republican legislators is changing amid the realization of strong public support across party lines for the two legalization bills proposed by state Democrats just last month.

Republican lawmakers are in a tough spot with constituents at strong and decisive odds with the traditional wing of the party. Both the libertarian and small government conservative factions support legalization, as do those Republicans who see the revenue and tax base potential of legalization.

Demonstrators show their support for the use of medical marijuana, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011 in Las Vegas. About 25 people protested outside the Federal building in response to recent federal raids on dispensaries, cultivators and referral services in Nevada and Michigan. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson) Demonstrators show their support for the use of medical marijuana, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011 in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

And apparently, they are on to something. According to Forbes, in January 2014 alone Colorado enjoyed $3.5 million in additional tax revenue from the sales of both medical and recreational marijuana.

Opposition however is not entirely along party lines.

Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), the most prominent organized opposition group is actually co-founded by well-known Democrat and former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, himself a recovering substance abuse addict. Mr. Kennedy is prominently featured on his group’s homepage alongside the quote “We cannot promote a comprehensive system of mental health treatment and marijuana legalization, which increases permissiveness for a drug that directly contributes to mental illness.”

Despite Mr. Kennedy’s and others’ public relations efforts, as of the writing of this column, the group has only seen 570 likes and 83 people discussing them on their official Facebook page. Not surprising when you discover that the promoted content is supportive of an agenda contrary to the sentiments of many Americans. Calls for U.N. intervention into America’s drug policy, and increased criminalization permeate the page.

While former Congressman Kennedy’s claims sound quite alarming, the research supporting his position has been suggestive and inconclusive at best.

Photo Credit: AP Photo Credit: AP

Governmental health organizations in both the U.S. and United Kingdom have conducted studies with results far less damning than apparently intended. In fact, a report published by our National Institute on Drug Abuse containing many anecdotal observations is largely inconclusive and requires more study, acknowledging “However, a causal relationship is not yet proven between cannabis use by young people and psychosocial harm.”

Furthering the lack of hard science on the harmful effects of pot is this gem inserted without much fanfare into the summary of a report prepared by the United Kingdom’s prestigious Royal College of Psychiatrists …”There is no evidence that cannabis causes specific health hazards.”

Now, I am not a medical professional so I’ll leave a deeper analysis of the research to the pros. But as an American who supports the Constitution and took an oath to defend it when I was a police officer, I am strongly opposed to public policy that criminalizes anything based on inconclusive science, morality, and/or political partisanship.

I predict that legalization gains steam as we move towards the 2014 midterms both because of its political popularity and its ability to generate much needed revenue for states.

The data supporting marijuana legalization among registered Republicans and right-leaning “other” voters should be a wake-up call for GOP incumbents and candidates wavering on whether Republican voters identify more with the Rand Paul or Mitch McConnell faction of the party. With pun intended because of the subject matter, I’ll leave those candidates with words of wisdom from Bob Dylan - The times, they are a changin’.

TheBlaze contributor channel supports an open discourse on a range of views. The opinions expressed in this channel are solely those of each individual author.

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