Cannabis Reform: The Issue Uniting a Polarised America

Despite the tense political climate in the run-up to the US’ mid-term elections, one issue enjoys broad support across the political spectrum: cannabis reform. 

Americans are due to vote in the mid-term elections on November 6 to select their representatives in the Senate and House of Representatives. Alongside this decision, many voters will also decide on the future of cannabis in their state. Residents of Michigan and North Dakota will decide whether to legalise cannabis for non-medical “recreational” use, while voters in the states of Utah and Missouri will decide whether to legalise cannabis for medical purposes.

Interestingly, all four of these states pushed Donald Trump to his presidential election win in 2016 – hinting at an invalidation of the notion that cannabis legalisation is only a matter of interest for left-wing Democrats.

Although politics in the US has become increasingly polarised in recent years, cannabis reform is one of the least divisive policy issues. According to a recent poll conducted by Gallup, cannabis legalisation was the sole topic – among several contentious subjects – which was favoured by over half of Republican and Democrat respondents.

According to the poll, around two-thirds of Americans nationwide are in favour of legalising recreational cannabis, and over 80 per cent support legalisation for medical use. There are currently nine states, as well as Washington D.C., where the drug’s production and use has been legalised for recreational purposes.

Many previous state ballot initiatives for cannabis reform, as well as those taking place this November, are a result of citizens acquiring large numbers of signatures and public support. The high level of public engagement around this issue is indicative of a growing social acceptance towards cannabis and opposition to the federal laws that dictate its prohibition. 

This change in public attitude is seemingly influencing both Democratic and Republican lawmakers.

In Utah, a state which has supported every Republican presidential candidate for half a century, the Mormon Church recently joined the state’s governor and senior lawmakers in endorsing the cannabis reform ballot. Jack Gerard, a high ranking member of the church, announced how glad the group was to help “alleviate human pain and suffering”.

As neighbouring Canada is set to legalise cannabis for recreational purposes on October 17, and the president-elect of Mexico has endorsed such a move in his country, a continental shift may be on the horizon in North America. This may, in turn, have profound effects for the cannabis reformist movement across the world.